Last week, as expected, former President Donald Trump announced he was throwing his hat into the ring for the 2024 presidential election. The move was widely expected and, as he is inclined to, Trump did. a number of dubious claims in the speech announcing his candidacy.
On the Strategic Petroleum Reserve (SPR), Trump claimed he had “filled” the SPR, but Biden “virtually emptied” it.
This is not the first time Trump has made this claim. Earlier this year, after President Biden announced the biggest SPR release in history, Trump released a statement:
“So after 50 years of near-empty, I have built up our oil reserves during my administration, and low energy prices, 100% full. It’s called the National Strategic Reserves, and it hasn’t been full for decades. In fact, it’s almost empty.
I addressed this claim at the time, but let’s look at the facts.
According to data from the Energy Information Administration (EIA), when Trump took office in January 2017, the SPR contained 695 million barrels. When he left office four years later, the SPR contained 638 million barrels. So the level of the SPR actually went down while President Trump was in office. You can clearly see this in the table below:
The chart easily disproves the first part of Trump’s claim. However, I will say that Trump offered to supplement the SPR during the early stages of the Covid-19 pandemic. But, as I noted earlier, 1). The directive was blocked by Democrats in Congress; and 2). The SPR was already within 13% of its highest level on record when this guideline was issued. In any case, it is clear that it was not filled during Trump’s term.
What about the second part of the claim? Has President Biden ‘virtually gutted’ the SPR? It’s easy to see where there’s a nugget of truth to this. Biden has reduced the SPR level to its lowest level since 1984. So while some may quibble with “virtually gutted”, it is true that Biden has significantly depleted the SPR level.
So while Trump’s claim that he filled the SPR is inaccurate, there is reason to criticize Biden for exhausting the SPR. The SPR is intended to serve as an insurance policy against oil supply disruptions, and its depletion reduces the security of the United States against such disruptions. If we have a real emergency where we need that oil, depleting the SPR is going to look like a foolish move.
By Robert Rapier
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