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President Joe Biden is once again tapping into the country’s backup oil supply to fight soaring gas prices caused in part by the Russia-Ukraine war, and the latest withdrawal will bring it to its lowest level in almost 40 years.
The country’s Strategic Petroleum Reserve had 564.6 million barrels of oil as of Friday. When the latest sale is complete, the number will fall to 384.6 million barrels, a decrease of about 40 percent since Biden took office in January 2021 and a level not recorded since 1984, according to an NBC News analysis of Energy Department data.
The average price of a gallon of gas in the U.S. is about $4.18 a gallon, according to AAA, up from about $2.87 a gallon this time last year. Prices have soared because of supply constraints and a U.S. ban on Russian oil imports in the wake of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
Biden announced the sale of 180 million barrels of oil Thursday, the largest release in the country’s history.
“This is a wartime bridge to increase oil supply until production ramps up later this year. And it is by far the largest release from our national reserve in our history,” Biden said at a news conference Thursday.Another 50 million barrels were sold in November, and 30 million more barrels were sold last month.
The skyrocketing prices and disruptions from sanctions are exactly the situation the Strategic Petroleum Reserve was designed to combat, according to the Energy Department. The reserves were created after Arab-Israeli War caused an oil crisis in the 1970s.
The first 90 million barrels will be released from May to July, the Energy Department announced Friday, in addition to 20 million barrels scheduled for release in May. The remaining 90 million barrels will be released from August to October.