According to an exclusive report from Reuters, Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm wrote a letter to a House committee warning about the effects an oil bill could have on gas prices if passed. The Strategic Production Response Act, introduced earlier this month by Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers, R-Wash., would limit presidential authority in releasing oil from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve (SPR), except in the case of a severe energy supply interruption.
“This bill would significantly weaken this critical energy security tool, resulting in more oil supply shortages in times of crisis and higher gasoline prices for Americans,” Granholm said in the letter to the House Energy and Commerce Committee. Rep. McMorris Rodgers became the chair of the committee after Republicans took control of the House.
President Joe Biden tapped in to the reserve multiple times last year to manage rising gasoline prices and supply disruptions caused by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. The Biden administration faced bipartisan concern after the SPR shrunk to about 380 million barrels, its lowest level since 1984.
In her letter on the oil bill, Granholm cited estimates from the Treasury Department saying the administration’s use of the SPR cut gas prices by as much as 40 cents per gallon. The White House has criticized the bill, calling it “backwards” and an attempt by House Republicans to help oil companies make more profits.
Reporting of the oil bill letter came a day after AAA reported gas prices had risen by five cents since last week, to a national average of $3.32. The rise comes despite the fact “the short days and messy weather of January are combining to keep people off the roads, lowering gasoline demand,” according to AAA.
“Gasoline demand is usually lackluster this time of year, and it likely won’t start to tick up until spring break draws near,” AAA spokesperson Andrew Gross said. “So the primary factor in this latest increase is the higher cost of oil, which accounts for more than half of what you pay at the pump.”