WASHINGTON — President Biden’s plan to refill the Strategic Petroleum Reserve when oil returns to around $70 per barrel — after releasing 180 million barrels this year to lower gas prices — faces a potential hurdle from Senate Republicans who tell The Post it’s a bad deal for taxpayers.

Biden’s proposed purchase price is more than double what Republicans wanted to spend to top off the reserve when the cost per barrel was near $20 two years ago.

“Democrats are hoping to get away with highway robbery once again.” Sen. John Barrasso (R-Wyo.) told The Post.

Democrats led by Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) blocked then-President Donald Trump’s attempt in 2020 to add 77 million barrels of oil to the SPR. The same purchase would cost nearly $4 billion more at Biden’s proposed rate.

“Chuck Schumer killed the chance to work with Republicans to strengthen our energy security two years ago when oil prices were low,” Barrasso said.

“Now, after draining our emergency reserves to a 40-year low, Democrats want billions more of taxpayer dollars to refill the SPR at more than double the price. This is a direct attack on every single American struggling to fill their tanks and heat their homes.”

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer had blocked former President Trump’s attempt to add 77 million barrels of oil to the SPR.
J. Scott Applewhite/AP

Barrasso is the chairman of the Senate Republican Conference and the top Republican on the Committee on Energy and Natural Resources, putting him in a powerful position to oversee and potentially block Biden’s plans if the GOP retakes control of the Senate in the Nov. 8 midterm election.

Biden outlined his plan to replenish the SPR on Wednesday as he announced plans to release 15 million barrels from the reserve in December to offset a 2% production cut by OPEC+.

The release, announced just before the midterm elections, will bring the total amount taken from the SPR this year to about 180 million barrels. About 400 million barrels remain.

Biden framed his plan to buy oil at $70 per barrel as a way to support the oil industry by increasing demand when prices decrease, thereby preventing them from falling further.

the Strategic Petroleum Reserve storage
As gas prices remain high across the country, President Biden announced a plan to release 15 million barrels from the Strategic Petroleum Reserves.
Brandon Bell/Getty Images

“The United States government is going to purchase oil to refill the Strategic Petroleum Reserve when prices fall to $70 a barrel,” Biden said Wednesday. “And that means oil companies can invest to ramp up production now, with confidence they’ll be able to sell their oil to us at that price in the future: $70.”

Biden added, “Refining and refilling the reserve at $70 a barrel is a good price for companies and it’s a good price for the taxpayers, and it’s critical to our national security.”

But Republicans say Biden’s plan could waste billions of taxpayer dollars and disrupt market mechanisms for oil pricing that could benefit consumers.

“Republicans won’t waste taxpayer dollars,” a senior GOP Senate aide told The Post. “There will be significant pushback from Congress if [the Energy Department] asks for an extra $3.9 billion because of Chuck Schumer’s big ego.”

A Schumer spokesman declined to comment.

White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre this week defended the historical Democratic opposition to refilling the SPR at a lower price.

“Look, it was a different time then. It was not the same situation that we are currently in. The reserve was close to full capacity at that time,” Jean-Pierre said at a briefing.

The price of a barrel of West Texas crude was $85.14 at the close of business Friday and is likely to get more expensive over the winter — meaning refiling the reserve at the price Biden quoted may not happen before next year or later.

United States Senator John Barrasso
Sen. John Barrasso told The Post that Schumer “killed the chance to work with Republicans.”
Rod Lamkey/CNP/Polaris

A second Senate Republican aide told The Post that Biden “does have some ability to take steps to refill [the SPR],” including by using proceeds from the 180 million barrels he sold this year.

“But there are limits to what he can do unless Congress approves it,” the aide said.

Republicans are broadly critical of Biden’s handling of energy issues, including his first-year efforts to reduce domestic oil production and transportation.

Sen. Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.) told The Post that “Schumer blocked Congress from replenishing our SPR in 2020 at $24 per barrel by claiming it was a bailout of Big Oil and this week the White House defended that move to leave the SPR depleted.”

“President Biden plans to refill the SPR when oil prices hit between $67 and $72 per barrel, claiming ‘it’s a good price for taxpayers.’ This should have been done long ago and now this decision could cost additional billions of dollars,” Blackburn added. “Instead of draining the SPR, President Biden needs to implement an Operation Warp Speed for American energy.”

Biden claimed Wednesday while announcing his latest release of oil from the SPR that he had done nothing to impede US oil production — despite the fact that he took several actions to throttle exploration, drilling and transportation of petroleum last year.

Sen. Marsha Blackburn
Sen. Marsha Blackburn slammed Biden’s plan, saying that it has come too late and could “cost additional billions of dollars.”
Alex Brandon/AP

“Let’s debunk some myths here. My administration has not stopped or slowed US oil production. Quite the opposite,” Biden said. “We’re producing 12 million barrels of oil per day. And by the end of this year, we will be producing 1 million barrels a day more than the day in which I took office. In fact, we’re on track record oil production in 2023.”

Although domestic production has increased, Biden’s critics point out that he also attempted to impose a moratorium on new oil and gas leases on federal land, canceled the Keystone XL oil pipeline project from Canada into the US and banned oil drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.

Biden announced his latest oil release from the SPR after his envoys failed to convince Saudi Arabia to delay OPEC+ production cuts until after the election. House Republicans have floated Biden’s possible impeachment for asking the Saudis to delay the cuts, which could have helped Democrats by preventing gas prices from increasing in the final stretch of the campaign.



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