U.S. energy secretary: Tapping oil reserve a possible tool to calm prices-FT

Department of Energy officials lead reporters on a tour of the Strategic Petroleum Reserve in Freeport, Texas, U.S. June 9, 2016. REUTERS/Richard Carson/Files

WASHINGTON, Oct 6 (Reuters) - U.S. Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm said on Wednesday that tapping the country's emergency oil stash is being mulled by the administration to cool gasoline prices that have hit seven-year highs on higher demand as the coronavirus pandemic eases, according to a Financial Times report.

"It's a tool that's under consideration," Granholm said at an FT energy transition summit about the prospect of the administration of President Joe Biden tapping the Strategic Petroleum Reserve (SPR) to calm oil and motor fuel prices.

U.S. gasoline prices have reached about $3.20 a gallon as people return to work and travel more on signs that COVID-19 cases are easing and after OPEC+ oil producing countries agreed this week to keep crude supplies tight. High oil prices are a concern for the administration ahead of next year's midterm elections.

U.S. presidents have occasionally released crude from the reserve to calm oil prices. In the last big release, former President Barack Obama in 2011 ordered the sale of 30.6 million barrels in response to crude supply disruptions in Libya. That was coordinated with other countries in the International Energy Agency, which also released 30 million barrels.

The SPR, held in caverns on the Texas and Louisiana coasts, currently holds about 617.8 million barrels of crude, according to the Energy Department, the lowest in about 18 years.

Granholm also did not rule out a ban on crude oil exports, which was lifted in 2015 when Obama was president. “That’s a tool that we have not used, but it is a tool as well,” Granholm said in the FT report.

Reporting by Timothy Gardner Editing by Marguerita Choy

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