(Adds comments from White House, API)
BAYOU CHOCTAW, La., May 24 (Reuters) - U.S. President Joe Biden has not ruled out using export restrictions to ease soaring domestic fuel prices, U.S. Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm said on Tuesday.
Asked if the United States was considering restricting petroleum exports to ease fuel prices, Granholm said “I can confirm the president is not taking any tools off the table.”
Granholm was speaking to reporters during a tour of the Bayou Choctaw salt dome, part of the nation’s Strategic Petroleum Reserve system.
The United States exported around 8.6 million barrels per day of oil and refined products in 2021, slightly more than it imported, according to the Energy Information Administration.
The Biden administration has been struggling to combat inflation, including record pump prices, as demand rebounds from the depths of the COVID-19 pandemic and supply has been disrupted since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
Rising costs are seen as a major vulnerability to Biden’s fellow Democrats leading into the November midterm elections.
So far, the administration has announced record-sized releases of crude oil from the SPR over the coming months and an expansion of sales of high-ethanol blends of gasoline to expand the volume of available fuel.
It is also mulling other options, including a release from emergency diesel stockpiles and the lifting of anti-smog regulations on gasoline. Officials, however, have been coy about the question of export restrictions.
U.S. oil producers oppose export curbs, arguing they could run counter to U.S. efforts to support European countries seeking to reduce purchases from Russia.
“Restricting U.S. energy exports would only create further instability in the marketplace, diminish American energy leadership and represent a grave disservice to our allies,” said Frank Macchiarola, a policy official at the American Petroleum Institute trade group.
The White House official told Reuters that while “all tools are on the table” to reduce energy prices, the administration was focused primarily on releasing oil from the SPR and expanding sales of higher ethanol gasoline blends.
The Energy Department announced on Tuesday a sale of 40.1 million barrels from the SPR, including up to 7.1 million barrels from Bayou Choctaw, as part of the administration’s announcement in March to release 1 million barrels of oil a day for six months. (Reporting by Erwin Seba in Bayou Choctaw, Louisiana, additional reporting by Timothy Gardner and Jarrett Renshaw in Washington; Writing by Richard Valdmanis; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama and David Gregorio)
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