House Passes Bill Blocking Strategic Petroleum Reserve Exports to China

House Passes Bill Blocking Strategic Petroleum Reserve Exports to China
Rep. Steve Scalise (R-La.) speaks during a House Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Crisis hearing in the Rayburn House Office Building on Capitol Hill on May 19, 2021. (Susan Walsh/Pool/AFP via Getty Images)
Nathan Worcester

The House of Representatives has approved a measure that would block exports from the nation’s Strategic Petroleum Reserve (SPR) to China.

The legislation passed 331–97, with 113 Democrats siding with Republicans on Jan. 12 in backing the “Protecting America’s Strategic Petroleum Reserve from China Act,” or H.R. 22.

The proposal would prohibit “the Department of Energy (DOE) from selling petroleum products (e.g., crude oil) from the SPR to any entity that is under the ownership, control, or influence of the Chinese Communist Party,” according to a summary from the Congressional Research Service. “Further, DOE must require as a condition of any sale of crude oil from the SPR that the oil not be exported to China.”

Last year, 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.

House Energy and Commerce Committee Chair Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-Wash.), who introduced the measure, said the Biden administration has been “actively bolstering the oil reserves of our most dangerous geopolitical adversary, the Chinese Communist Party.”

“The federal government should not be in the business of picking winners and losers, especially when it makes us more dangerously dependent upon China for critical minerals, solar panels, and batteries to produce our own energy,” she said.

Last year, the Biden administration sold substantial quantities of oil to Unipec, a firm with close ties to the Chinese government.

Democrat and Republican Responses

Rep. Frank Pallone (D-N.J.), the ranking Democrat on the energy committee and former chair, objected to the bill. He traced the export of oil to China to congressional Republicans, who in 2015 led the successful effort to lift a 40-year ban on crude oil exports.

He questioned why Republicans didn’t back bipartisan legislation from the previous Congress from Reps. Don Bacon (R-Neb.) and Chrissy Houlahan (D-Pa.) that would have outlawed SPR sales or exports to China, North Korea, Iran, and other countries sanctioned by the United States.

“Are my Republican colleagues OK with exporting oil to Putin’s Russia in the midst of a war on Ukraine?” he asked.

“They’re just recycling an old one-page bill that takes a minor step in undoing the damage that they themselves created.”

Pallone later asserted that the Biden administration was largely responsible for recent domestic gas price declines through its SPR releases.

Rep. Kathy Castor (D-Fla.) also defended the Bacon–Houlahan bill, saying the Republicans’ bill is “way too narrowly tailored.”

She asserted that it would “completely ban all crude oil exports to China.”

“I might just note that President Biden has actually wanted to import from Russia and Iran,” Rodgers said after Castor spoke.

Rep. Robert Latta (R-Ohio) voiced his support of H.R. 22.

“The [Biden] administration has made every effort to undermine, avoid, and restrict oil and gas production in North America while at the same time moving to drain our strategic reserves in an attempt to offset the price increases caused by the president’s own policies,” he said.

“What political nonsense this bill is! It allows an American oil company to buy oil from the SPR on Monday and sell it to China on Tuesday,” said Rep. Brad Sherman (D-Calif.).

He later suggested that the United States should ban oil and natural gas exports when prices are high.

“Just to correct the record, the language is very clear, if you look at subsection two: ‘Such petroleum products will not be exported to the People’s Republic of China,’” Rodgers said after Sherman spoke.

Rep. Debbie Lesko (R-Ariz.) said U.S. oil exports to China under Biden have greatly strengthened the communist country, now widely recognized as the chief geopolitical and economic rival of the United States.

“In part because of the Biden administration, China, not the U.S., has the largest government-controlled stockpile of oil in the world,” she said.

House Majority Leader Steve Scalise (R-La.) pointed out that the United States is the only free-market country in the world capable of producing large amounts of oil.

“The rest of the countries that have an abundant supply are cartels—OPEC, Russia, Iran, Venezuela. They want a high price. The only check and balance to high prices of oil is a free market producing America,” he said, later arguing that the rapid drawdown of the SPR under Biden threatens national security,” Scalise said.

“We don’t just produce enough for ourselves–because, by the way, if we weren’t allowed to export energy, then you would see a decrease in production, you would see a decrease in exploration. It’s like a farmer. If a farmer can only produce and sell in America, they’re going to plant a lot less, because they can’t have access to world markets.

“You want to have access to world markets, but you want to also have a reserve in case.”

He also noted that natural disasters and national security emergencies are legitimate reasons to tap the stockpile, rather than what he characterized as “failed policy” under Biden.

“History is not on [Scalise’s] side,” Pallone shot back. “The fact of the matter is that the Republicans created this problem by lifting the ban on the export of crude oil to China and the rest of the world when they were in the majority—and this bill does nothing to solve the problem!”

He said just a negligible proportion of U.S. oil exports to China came from the SPR.

Rep. Mónica De La Cruz (R-Texas) said H.R. 22 would be “a crucial step to holding China accountable and repositioning the United States as a global energy leader.”

Rep. Mike Lawler (R-N.Y.) said, “The bottom line is America needs to be energy independent.”

Nathan Worcester covers national politics for The Epoch Times and has also focused on energy and the environment. Nathan has written about everything from fusion energy and ESG to Biden's classified documents and international conservative politics. He lives and works in Chicago. Nathan can be reached at [email protected].
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