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U.S. House Democrats urge Biden to release oil reserves, reinstate export ban

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A 3D-printed oil pump jack is seen in front of a displayed stock graph and "$0 Barrel" words in this illustration picture, April 20, 2020. REUTERS/Dado Ruvic/Illustration/Files

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WASHINGTON, Nov 22 (Reuters) - Democrats in the U.S. House of Representatives on Monday urged President Joe Biden to release crude oil from the U.S. Strategic Petroleum Reserve (SPR) and reinstate - at least temporarily - a ban on oil exports to help drive down surging energy prices.

The Democrats told Biden in a letter spearheaded by California Democrat Ro Khanna that urgent action was needed to ensure "affordable and reliable energy for American families."

The letter, signed by eight other House Democrats, calls on Biden to "use all tools at our disposal to bring down gasoline prices in the short term." Eleven Senate Democrats wrote a similar letter to Biden earlier this month, citing OPEC constraints on supplies and U.S. exports.

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The U.S. Department of Energy is expected to announce a loan of oil from the SPR on Tuesday in coordination with several other countries, a Biden administration source familiar with the situation said. read more

Biden could discuss the move during a speech on the U.S. economy and his administration's efforts to reverse surging costs on Tuesday.

Khanna said addressing inflation and Americans' concerns was a central responsibility for Democrats, who risk losing control of Congress in mid-term elections next year.

"We have to make it clear we're doing everything we can to tackle inflation," Khanna told Reuters.

Reports about a coordinated release of oil from several countries' reserves drove down oil prices sharply last week.

In their letter to Biden, the Democrats argued that a ban on oil exports could boost domestic supplies and further lower consumer prices, which recently hit a 31-year high.

"The economics of it make sense," Khanna said, adding that he understood Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm was considering the move. A temporary ban on exports would help boost domestic supply, helping to lower prices, without having any major impact on the global oil market, he said.

The U.S. Congress voted in 2015 to repeal a 40-year-old ban on exporting U.S. crude oil in an energy policy shift sought by Republicans as part of a bipartisan deal that also provided unprecedented tax incentives for wind and solar power.

Biden has authority under the legislation to declare an emergency and limit or stop oil exports for up to a year, although experts have said the odds of him doing so are slim.

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Reporting by Andrea Shalal; editing by Richard Pullin

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