EXCLUSIVE: Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., joined Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, Wednesday in introducing bipartisan legislation that would prohibit the federal government from selling American emergency oil reserves to China.
The legislation — which, in addition to Manchin and Cruz, was cosponsored by another 12 Republicans, two other Democrats and Independent Sens. Angus King of Maine and Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona — is similar to the Protecting America’s Strategic Petroleum Reserve from China Act which the House overwhelmingly passed last month. The bill’s bipartisan support in the Democratic-majority Senate gives the bill a clear pathway to President Biden’s desk to be signed into law.
“The Strategic Petroleum Reserve is a vital piece of our nation’s infrastructure that bolsters our energy and national security,” Manchin, who serves as the chairman of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, said in a statement shared with Fox News Digital.
“While the reserve has been a policy Band-Aid for rising gas prices and the global unrest caused by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, the reserve is, above-all, meant to help the United States and our allies through difficult times, not to help China power its economy,” he continued.
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Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., is pictured on Jan. 22.
(William B. Plowman/NBC via Getty Images)
“This bill would ensure that we are not risking our energy security by selling our petroleum reserves to China, and the bipartisan support this legislation has received shows just how important it is for America to be energy secure and independent,” Manchin said.
Under the legislation, the Department of Energy (DOE) would no longer be allowed to draw down and sell petroleum products from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve (SPR) to entities owned or controlled by the Chinese Communist Party. The agency would only be allowed to sell SPR reserves to such entities if the products aren’t exported to China.
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Since taking office in January 2021, the Biden administration has sold at least 2 million barrels of oil from the SPR to Unipec an affiliate of the state-controlled China Petrochemical Corporation.
The first such sale was part of a 20-million-barrel SPR sale awarded to eight companies in September 2021. The other two — both sales for 950,000 barrels of oil — came in April 2022 and July 2022, respectively, and shortly after Biden announced an aggressive SPR release strategy to combat rising gasoline prices.
The releases were widely condemned by Republican lawmakers who accused the Biden administration of sacrificing a key U.S. national security asset to bolster China’s economy and Chinese oil reserves. In recent months, The Chinese government’s emergency oil stockpile has overtaken the SPR as the world’s largest government-controlled stockpile of oil.
Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, speaks to reporters on Dec. 6 on Capitol Hill.
(Kevin Dietsch/Getty Images)
“The Strategic Petroleum Reserve was intended to ensure that America had sufficient oil reserves in the event of an emergency,” Cruz said in a statement. “Under no circumstances should we sell any part of this stockpile to the Chinese Communist Party or any company under its control.”
“We need to immediately act to stop this from happening in the future and unleash American energy, and I’m proud to work with my colleagues and Sen. Joe Manchin on this important, bipartisan issue,” the Texas Republican added.
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But in response to criticism from GOP lawmakers, the White House fired back in July, arguing that its hands were tied since it was legally required to sell SPR oil to the highest bidder.
Some Republican members of Congress are suggesting that the president and the Biden administration are funneling oil from the [SPR] to specific foreign companies for nefarious reasons,” White House spokesperson Ian Sams told Fox News Digital on July 22.
“This accusation is ridiculous and false, and if they took the initiative to examine some basic facts, they would see that.”
President Biden has announced several releases from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve in an effort to lower gasoline prices.
(AP Photo/Evan Vucci)
Cruz, Manchin, King, Synema and Sens. Michael Bennet, D-Colo., Maggie Hassan, D-N.H., Dan Sullivan, R-Alaska, Mike Braun, R-Ind., Tom Cotton, R-Ark., Cindy Hyde-Smith, R-Miss., John Boozman, R-Ark., John Hoeven, R-N.D., John Cornyn, R-Texas, Joni Ernst, R-Iowa, Jerry Moran, R-Kan., Roger Marshall, R-Kan., Rick Scott, R-Fla., and Mike Lee, R-Utah., were all listed as cosponsors of the legislation.
In addition, Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee Ranking Member John Barrasso, R-Wyo., and Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, introduced similar legislation last month that would bar the DOE from selling SPR reserves to China or other countries of particular concern.
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Overall, Biden has ordered the Department of Energy to release a total of about 260 million barrels of oil stored in the SPR since taking office to combat record fuel prices hitting American consumers. In late March, the president announced a draw-down of a million barrels per day from the SPR after Russia invaded Ukraine, roiling global energy markets.
The SPR’s level has fallen to about 371.6 million barrels of oil, the lowest level since 1983, according to Energy Information Administration data. The current level is also nearly 40% lower than its level recorded days prior to Biden’s first major release in late November 2021.
The SPR was established by the 1975 Energy Policy and Conservation Act to help the U.S. mitigate the impacts of future “severe energy supply interruptions.”