Sen. Josh Hawley (R-Mo) has called for an investigation into the United States Department of Energy’s (DOE) recent releases of oil from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve (SPR) to foreign countries, including China.
The letter was sent on July 13 to the DOE inspector general Teri L. Donaldson, urging the department to determine the possibility of “gross administrative misconduct” that may have occurred during these sales.
“While Americans are paying record gasoline and diesel fuel prices, the Biden administration appears to have been letting our strategic oil stockpiles flow to foreign countries and entities,” Hawley wrote. “Critically, the American people deserve answers as to how exactly the Department justified sending oil from the SPR to China.”
In Nov. 2021, President Biden authorized the release of 50 million barrels from the SPR to lower gas prices for Americans, according to a White House statement. He authorized another 30 million barrels at the beginning of March 2022, and another 180 million barrels on March 31.
The White House said the releases would help address the supply disruption that Americans are facing, while touting Biden’s “unwavering commitment to doing everything in his power to ease the pain American families are facing today at the pump.”
But, the administration drew scrutiny and sharp criticism after it was reported that America’s oil reserves will drop to a 40-year low by October 2022, and that oil from our SPR was going to oil companies in other countries (one of which has business ties to Biden’s son).
“The SPR exists to protect and serve Americans, not foreign entities or adversaries,” Hawley said in his letter.
“The Inspector General’s office is empowered to investigate allegations of fraud, waste, and abuse with priority given to investigations of serious administrative misconduct,” he wrote. “This includes the detection of contract fraud and issues that reflect on the integrity and credibility of Department officials.”
“The process by which oil reserves were released to foreign adversaries such as China merits such investigation,” he added.
Hawley provided a list of five questions he wants the DOE to answer:
- Does the Department have any internal controls in place to prevent the transfer of oil from the SPR to foreign entities with ties to China?
- How many barrels of oil from the SPR ultimately went to American refineries? How many ultimately served foreign markets?
- How could the qualifications or limitations the Department considers during the contracting process be improved to ensure releases from the SPR serve to improve the supply and affordability of energy for American citizens?
- Were any controls in place to ensure oil from the SPR would go to serve American markets? How could these be improved?
- Did Department officials follow the statutory requirement to consult with the Secretary of Defense on SPR releases? Did the Secretary of Defense raise any concerns regarding any transfer of the SPR to any foreign government or Chinese state-owned enterprise?
He asked the Inspector General to provide answers by July 29, 2022.