It could take years for the United States to refill the Strategic Petroleum Reserve, the U.S. energy secretary told lawmakers on Thursday, after sales directed by President Joe Biden last year pushed the stockpile to the lowest level since the early 1980s.
“This year, it will be difficult for us to take advantage of this low price,” Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm told U.S. representatives in a congressional hearing. “But we will continue to look for that low price into the future because we intend to be able to save the taxpayer dollars.”
Biden administration officials have said they want to refill the reserve, after last year’s historic sale of 180 million barrels, when the oil price consistently is around $70 a barrel. Oil from that sale sold about $94 per barrel.
The price for benchmark West Texas Intermediate crude futures has fallen to around $70 per barrel this week on worries about the economy amid crises at several banks.
The energy department said last month it is moving forward with a sale of 26 million barrels from the SPR that was mandated by Congress in earlier years to help fund the federal budget.
Granholm said that sale, in which oil will be delivered from April 1 to June 20, and maintenance at the reserve at two sites will make it difficult to buy back oil this year. She said it could take years to get the reserve back to the level it was before the 180 million barrel sale.