White House asks Congress for $500M to modernize Strategic Petroleum Reserve

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White House asks Congress for $500M to modernize Strategic Petroleum Reserve

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The White House is asking Congress for $500 million in funds to modernize the U.S. Strategic Petroleum Reserve, nine months after President Joe Biden ordered the sale of 180 million barrels of oil from the reserve, sending levels plummeting to a nearly four-decade low.

If approved, the request would provide the U.S. Department of Energy with funds to maintain operational readiness levels at the SPR facilitates and to alleviate anticipated shortfalls due to “supply chain issues, the COVID-19 pandemic, and related schedule delays,” the White House said in its request.

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DOE spokeswoman Charisma Troiano told Reuters that the funds would be allocated to performing necessary infrastructure repairs and keeping the SPR ready for future scheduled sales. It would also “address global energy supply chain disruptions” such as those caused by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, she said.

The Strategic Petroleum Reserve comprises four vast underground salt caverns along the Gulf Coast in Texas and Louisiana.

The structural integrity of these caverns can be stressed by repeated petroleum withdrawals, which can require corrective maintenance or even closure of the facilities.

Congress already allocates money for SPR modernization. Lawmakers in 2015 passed the Energy Security and Infrastructure Modernization Fund, which includes funding for SPR facility operations, including land acquisition, equipment, site development, and “other necessary costs related to capital improvement.”

The DOE did not respond to the Washington Examiner’s request for comment about where the $500 million in additional modernization funds would be directed, or why such updates are needed.

Biden’s sale has been the largest and fastest drawdown since the stockpile’s creation in the 1970s and was justified as an effort to protect U.S. consumers’ relief from soaring gas prices caused by the war in Ukraine.

But it also prompted concern that the sale would leave the U.S. vulnerable and resource-strapped in the event of an actual oil supply emergency.

It is also unclear to what extent the SPR drawdowns have affected the structural integrity of the vast subterranean storage caverns.

Tristan Abbey, a former National Security Council and senior Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee staffer who oversaw the Strategic Petroleum Reserve, asked committee leadership in an open letter last month to conduct a bipartisan investigation into the degree to which the 180 million barrel sale has degraded the caverns.

“Every single fill and refill stress the structural integrity of this system,” Abbey said, analogizing the reserve caverns to a sand castle that “is not designed to withstand repeated waves.”

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The SPR funding was included in the White House’s supplemental budget request to provide nearly $38 billion in aid to Ukraine.

The request also includes $126.3 million for the National Nuclear Security Administration, part of the DOE, to guard against nuclear and radiological incidents in Ukraine.

© 2022 Washington Examiner

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