(NewsNation) — President Joe Biden on Thursday ordered the release of 1 million barrels of oil per day from the nation’s strategic petroleum reserve for six months in a bid to control energy prices that have spiked amid Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
“This is a wartime bridge,” Biden said. “The bottom line is if we want lower gas prices we need to have more oil supply right now.”
Biden blamed the root of high gas prices in the U.S. on the pandemic and Russian President Vladimir Putin.
“Putin’s price hike is hitting Americans at the pump,” he said. “Our (gas) prices are rising because of Putin’s actions. There isn’t enough supply.”
The president said it was not known how much gasoline prices could decline as a result of his move, but he suggested it might be “anything from 10 cents to 35 cents a gallon.”
Prices at the pump were rising long before Russia invaded Ukraine and have spiraled faster since the start of the war. The U.S. national average for a gallon of gasoline has soared in the past month and topped $4.22 on Thursday, according to auto club AAA.
Energy prices have spiked as the U.S. and its allies announced a raft of sanctions against the Russian government and oligarchs over the course of the last month.
The move by Biden shows that oil remains a key vulnerability for the U.S. at home and abroad. Higher prices have crushed Biden’s approval domestically, while also adding billions of dollars to the Russian war chest as it invades Ukraine.
The release of reserves could create pressures that could reduce oil prices, though Biden has already twice ordered releases from the strategic reserves without causing a meaningful shift in oil markets.
“This is a moment of consequence and peril for the world, and pain at the pump for American families,” Biden said.
On Thursday, Biden also reiterated his call for large oil and gas companies to put their profits to use producing more oil.
“Give the American people a break,” he said by “passing some of the savings on to their customers and lowering the price at the pump.”
“No American company should take advantage of a pandemic or Vladimir Putin’s actions to enrich themselves at the expense of American families,” he said.
Biden also called for a “Use It or Lose It” policy, saying Congress should make oil and gas companies pay fees on oil wells on federal leases that haven’t been used in years.
“Either start producing or pay the price for inaction,” he said. “Companies have an obligation that goes beyond their shareholders.”
He said he will invoke the Defense Production Act to encourage the mining of critical minerals for batteries in electric vehicles, part of a broader push to shift toward cleaner energy sources and reduce the use of fossil fuels.
According to the Department of Energy, which manages it, more than 568 million barrels of oil were held in the reserve as of Friday.