Bipartisan Bill Introduced to Protect US Strategic Petroleum Reserve

America's petroleum reserve dwindles as rival China's grows
By Ross Muscato
Ross Muscato
Ross Muscato
Ross Muscato covers the U.S. Congress for The Epoch Times.
February 1, 2023Updated: February 2, 2023

Chairman of the U.S. Senate Committee on Energy & Natural Resources Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.), in a bipartisan effort led with Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), on Wednesday introduced legislation to prohibit the Biden administration selling crude oil from the U.S. Strategic Petroleum Reserve (SPR) to China or any company controlled by China’s ruling Chinese Communist Party (CCP).

As described in a news release that the committee issued announcing its Protecting America’s Strategic Petroleum Reserve from China Act, the “bipartisan legislation would prohibit the sale of American crude oil from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve (SPR) to any company under the control of the Chinese Communist Party and prohibit the export of any crude oil from the SPR to China.”

Manchin said in the release, “The Strategic Petroleum Reserve is a vital piece of our nation’s infrastructure that bolsters our energy and national security. While the reserve has been a policy Band-Aid for rising gas prices and the global unrest caused by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, the reserve is, above-all, meant to help the United States and our allies through difficult times, not to help the CCP power China’s economy.

“This bill would ensure that we are not risking our energy security by selling our petroleum reserves to China, and the bipartisan support this legislation has received shows just how important it is for America to be energy secure and independent.”

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Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) speaks at a press conference at the U.S. Capitol to discuss immigration at the southern border in Washington, D.C., on June 22, 2022. (Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images)

Joining Cruz and Manchin in introducing the legislation are 18 senators—three Democrats, 13 Republicans, and two Independents—who signed on as co-sponsors: Angus King (I-Maine), Michael Bennet (D-Colo.), Maggie Hassan (D-N.H.), Dan Sullivan (R-Ark.), Mike Braun (R-Ind.), Tom Cotton (R-Ark.), Cindy Hyde-Smith (R-Miss.), Tommy Tuberville (R-Ala.), John Hoeven (N.D.), John Boozman (R-Ark.), Joni Ernst (R-Iowa), John Cornyn (R-Texas), Jerry Moran (R-Kan.), Roger Marshall (R-Kan.), Rick Scott (R-Fla.), Mike Lee (Utah), Kyrsten Sinema (I-Ariz.), and Mark Kelly (D-Ariz.).

America’s Oil Reserves Dwindle as China’s Grow

According to U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) statistics, starting in January 2020 and running through November 2022, the Strategic Petroleum Reserve was reduced by approximately 240 million barrels, falling from around 635 million barrels to 388 million.

A Feb. 27, 2022, Reuters reported that China, while boosting its own stockpile, was disregarding the call from the White House for a consortium of countries to, in an attempt to lower fuel prices, release oil from their reserves.

Reuters, citing information provided by data analytics firm Kayrros, noted that China had grown its reserves by 30 million barrels since mid-November 2022. The firm put total crude oil inventories in China, derived from satellite monitoring of tanks, at a total of 950 million barrels.

A bill similar in intent and scope easily passed the GOP-controlled House on a bipartisan vote in early January.

The Bryan Mound Strategic Petroleum Reserve, an oil storage facility, is seen in this aerial photograph over Freeport, Texas, on April 27, 2020. (Adrees Latif/Reuters)

On Jan. 12, the House voted 331-97 to approve the act to prohibit the secretary of energy from sending petroleum products from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve to China, and for other purposes, with 113 Democrats siding with the unanimous GOP membership support of the bill.

An Epoch Times story on House bill passing noted that in 2022, “President Joe Biden announced the release of 180 million barrels from the reserve in an effort to bring down energy prices and stabilize the global market. The release drew down the emergency stockpile to its lowest level since the 1980s.”

Cruz has long been sounding the alarm about threats to American security posed by the strategic oil reserve being depleted while China grows its fuel holdings.

Six months ago, Cruz introduced in the Senate the No Emergency Crude Oil for Foreign Adversaries Act, which would “ensure that reserves sold from the U.S. Strategic Petroleum Reserve (SPR) are not exported to nations that are adversaries of the United States.”

The bill did not garner enough votes to pass.

Bipartisan Efforts

In the 118th Congress—as economic, political, and defense tensions continue to rise between Beijing and U.S. allies—a sweet spot of Democratic-Republican cooperation has been forged with the intent of disrupting and blocking CCP activity in America and abroad that jeopardizes national security.

On Jan. 10, the House passed, with a vote of 365-65, the bill Establishing the Select Committee on Strategic Competition between the United States and the Chinese Communist Party.

“The 16-person bipartisan committee to investigate the CCP’s malign influence in the United States and elsewhere received widespread support from both parties for its comprehensive scope and clarity in singling out the CCP as the nation’s greatest threat,” The Epoch Times reported.

US Allies and China, Military Rivals

Not just politicians see a CCP-led China as a growing threat.

A flashpoint for armed conflict between the superpowers is the self-ruled island of Taiwan, a liberal democracy that since 1949 has been governed independently as the Republic of China (ROC), even as the United States and most nations officially recognize the CCP and its People’s Republic of China (PRC) on the mainland.

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Taiwan, Japan, and China are neighboring each other. (Screenshot/Google Map)

The CCP maintains that Taiwan is a rogue state. It seeks to bring the island nation, located approximately 80 miles off the mainland, under its socialist jurisdiction. With the iron-fisted Xi Jinping as the head of the PRC, the country has increased military activity near Taiwan and in its airspace.

The United States does not hold a mutual defense treaty with Taiwan as it does with Japan and South Korea, countries that would be imperiled if the CCP invaded Taiwan and expanded its jurisdiction in the Pacific.

In a memo drafted by Air Force Gen. Mike Minihan, head of Air Mobility Command, (AMC), dated Feb. 1—which was intended for his subordinates at AMC but leaked and distributed widely on social media on Jan. 27—the four-star general said that the airmen he commands should prepare for a war with China that could start within the next two years.

“I hope I am wrong,” wrote Gen. Minihan. “My gut tells me we will fight. Xi secured his third term and set his war council in 2022. Taiwan’s presidential elections are in 2024 and will offer Xi a reason.”