WASHINGTON, Feb 1 (Reuters) – U.S. senators may look to add Russia and Iran to a bill that stops releases of oil from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve from being sold to China, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said on Wednesday, in what would be largely symbolic measures.
“What about Iran? What about Russia?” Schumer told reporters after following a closed weekly meeting of Senate Democrats. “We may think of adding some new countries in.”
If the legislation was passed in Congress and signed by President Joe Biden, it would underscore Washington’s antagonistic relationships with Russia and Iran.
In February 2022, the month Russia invaded Ukraine, the United States exported 5,000 barrels of crude and oil products to Russia, and has not shipped any since. The last time there was a relatively large shipment, of 145,000 barrels, was in March 2009.
The United States does not export oil to Iran, with which Washington has struggled to strike a nuclear agreement and has been critical over human rights.
U.S. Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm said last week that Biden would veto another House-passed bill to limit the administration’s ability to tap the reserve without first putting forth a plan to increase oil and gas drilling on public lands.
The issue of U.S. oil exports to China became a rallying call for Republicans last year when Biden, a Democrat, announced the sale of 180 million barrels from the SPR to tame oil prices that rose due to Russia’s war in Ukraine and as consumers emerged from the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Republican-controlled U.S. House last month easily passed the bill banning sales of SPR oil to China. Last year, through October, U.S. oil companies exported nearly 67 million barrels of oil to China.
In all of 2020, when Republican Donald Trump was president, the United States exported 176 million barrels to China.