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Iowa Republican U.S. Rep. Ashley Hinson criticized Democratic President Joe Biden's decision to tap the Strategic Petroleum Reserve instead of ramping up domestic energy production to tame gas prices.
Biden, mindful of the upcoming midterm elections, earlier this week announced the release of 15 million barrels of oil from the U.S. strategic reserve as part of a response to recent production cuts announced by OPEC.
It completes the release of 180 million barrels authorized by the president in March that was initially supposed to occur over six months. That has sent the strategic reserve to its lowest level since 1984 in what the administration called a “bridge” until domestic production could be increased. The reserve now contains roughly 400 million barrels of oil.
Inflation, including the price of gas, has emerged as a major issue for voters.
Biden said the upcoming release of oil reserves is aimed at ensuring there's enough oil on the market to prevent gasoline prices from spiking, no matter what actions Russia and other big players take.
The Biden administration said it plans to restock the reserves as soon as oil prices fall between $67 and $72 per barrel. U.S. crude prices are around $82 per barrel. Biden said that pledge would give oil companies a floor so that they can take steps to boost domestic production now.
Biden has tried to move the U.S. past fossil fuels and identify additional sources of energy to satisfy U.S. and global supply as a result of disruptions from Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and production cuts announced by the Saudi Arabia-led oil cartel.
“When OPEC announced production cuts last week, President Biden’s first call should have been to American producers, particularly to our biofuels producers who stand ready to meet the demand right now,” Hinson told reporters Friday during a weekly conference call. “We should instead be ramping up our domestic production so that we can lower costs for families long term, instead of letting our foreign adversaries decide what we pay for gas.”
The Biden administration argues ramping up domestic production takes time, while releases from the strategic reserve would have a more immediate impact to help keep gas prices at bay.
A analysis from the U.S. Department of Treasury released this summer suggests the President’s release of oil earlier this year lowered the price of gasoline by 17 cents to 42 cents per gallon.
“This decline in prices had meaningful benefits for American consumers and helped to mitigate the impacts of rising gas prices on economywide inflation,” according to the analysis.
Hinson argued the strategic reserve should only be used in emergencies, when domestic production can’t keep up with demand, and that U.S. oil producers “stand ready to increase that supply.”
"We have awesome corn ready to go into ethanol and biofuels; awesome soy(beans) ready to go into biofuels and biodiesel as well,“ Hinson said. ”And these products are ready and available, and they are able to ramp up overnight. So we have options that this administration continues to turn a blind eye to.“
Hinson also called on the administration to issue a new five-year offshore drilling plan, “as a step to regaining our energy independence.”
“This is just one aspect of the all-of-the-above energy strategy that we need in place to ensure that we are not reliant on foreign adversaries for oil that we need,” she said.
Hinson also was asked whether she supports an administration program providing billions of dollars in debt relief for about 36,000 farmers who have fallen behind on loan payments or face foreclosure, given that she does not support the Biden administration's program to forgive hundreds of millions of dollars in student loan debt.
“Our farmers are, of course, feeding and fueling the world,” Hinson said. “And I think it’s really important we take into account” the effect inflation, high input costs and supply shortages have had on farming operations.
Hinson, as well, said the two plans were “fundamentally” different, casting the student debt relief program as a taxpayer “handout” paid for in part by “someone who chose not to go to college has to pay off someone else’s debt that they legally incurred and signed on the dotted line.”
“I think we need to be looking at how we drive down costs for everyone, including our farmers,” Hinson said.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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