Energy Secretary Steven Chu announced Thursday that the U.S. and its partners in the International Energy Agency will release 60 million barrels of oil onto the world market over the next 30 days to offset the disruption in the oil supply caused by unrest in the Middle East. The U.S. will release 30 million barrels of oil from the nation’s Strategic Petroleum Reserve. The SPR is currently at a historically high level with 727 million barrels, according to the Energy Department.
U.S. Strategic Petroleum Reserve, January 1988 to May 2011 (Number of barrels)
“We are taking this action in response to the ongoing loss of crude oil due to supply disruptions in Libya and other countries and their impact on the global economic recovery,” said Chu. “As we move forward, we will continue to monitor the situation and stand ready to take additional steps if necessary.”
The Energy Department said, “The situation in Libya has caused a loss of roughly 1.5 million barrels of oil per day – particularly of light, sweet crude – from global markets. As the United States enters the months of July and August, when demand is typically highest, prices remain significantly higher than they were prior to the start of the unrest in Libya.”
Republicans have repeatedly slammed President Obama over the unusually high prices, and Obama himself has noted his poll numbers appear to rise and fall with the price of gasoline. Many political strategists say that voter anger over near-record oil and gasoline prices could be a determining factor in the 2012 elections.