An official from the Department of Energy told federal lawmakers that the notion of opening up the nation’s oil reserves to offset rising fuels prices “is not off the table.”
Charles McConnell, acting assistant secretary for DOE’s Office of Fossil Energy, told the House appropriations subcommittee on energy and water development that the idea “has been in consideration for some time,” but cautioned that no decision has been made.
The per-gallon price of diesel fuel at the pump has increased 36.4 cents since the beginning of the year. Diesel’s per-gallon price toped $4.20 per-gallon during the last week of March, according to DOE figures.
The federal government maintains the Strategic Petroleum Reserve as an emergency response tool the president can use when facing disruptions and emergencies in oil supplies. It currently holds about 800 million barrels of oil. In June, 2011, the last time the SPR was tapped, 30 million barrels of oil were sold to 15 companies because of the protracted loss of 2 million barrels per day from Libya. Companies that accept SPR oil are required to return equal amounts when the crisis that led to the release is over and fuel supplies and prices both have returned to lower levels.
Oil also was released from the SPR after Hurricane Katrina in 2005 and during Operation Desert Storm in 1991.