October 22, 2014

Wyden Asks Energy Department to Study Strategic Petroleum Reserve

Washington, D.C. – Sen. Ron Wyden, D- Ore., today asked the Department of Energy to follow through on a recommendation from the Government Accountability Office to study the size and make-up of the United States Strategic Petroleum Reserve – the largest emergency supply of crude oil in the world.

In a report released Monday, the GAO noted that increased domestic crude oil production, combined with decreasing net oil imports as well as industry developments and related public policies implemented over the last 40 years raise serious questions about the necessary size of the Strategic Petroleum Reserve (SPR). Given these changes, the GAO recommended the DOE, which is responsible for maintaining the reserve, initiate an evaluation.

“The recent shale boom is having a profound effect on United States energy policy,” Wyden wrote in the letter to Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz. “In fact, some policy provisions put in place as recently as 2007 are now at best irrelevant, or at worst detrimental, to national environmental and economic goals, while much of our law in relation to oil and gas conservation and reserves comes from the 1970s.”

The SPR – which primarily consists of crude oil contained in several salt caverns in Louisiana and Texas – was created two years after the 1973 oil embargo cut off access to certain Middle Eastern oil supplies, left Americans stalled in long lines at gas stations and triggered an economic recession. Congress passed and President Gerald Ford signed the Energy Policy and Conservation Act to safeguard against possible future disruptions in supply.

According to the GAO report, “Given fiscal constraints that we are likely to face for years to come, reexamination may be essential to addressing newly emergent needs without unduly burdening future generations of taxpayers.”

To maintain its membership in the International Energy Agency, the United States is obligated to hold at least a 90-day supply of net imports of crude oil in both public and private reserves. The SPR currently exceeds that requirement by 16 days, storing a 106-day supply worth about $73 billion. Private reserves total 141 days.

Read the full letter here

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