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President Biden is ordering an unprecedented amount of oil be released from reserves

AILSA CHANG, HOST:

President Biden is ordering 1 million barrels of oil per day to be released from strategic reserves every day for the next six months. His announcement comes as Democrats face mounting political pressure to do something about consistently high gas prices. NPR White House correspondent Asma Khalid is covering this story and joins us now. Hey, Asma.

ASMA KHALID, BYLINE: Hi, Ailsa.

CHANG: So what exactly is the president ordering here to make all of this happen?

KHALID: Well, as you mentioned, he is authorizing the largest release of oil from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve in U.S. history. The scale and duration has never been done before. In total, we're talking about 180 million barrels of oil over the next 280 days.

CHANG: Wow.

KHALID: And just for some perspective, I mean, that is more than three times the size of the last big release. The White House is really trying to frame this all as a war time bridge. You know, in the last few months, gas prices have gone up by about a dollar a gallon. And sanctions over the war in Ukraine have really hit the oil market. Biden has been trying to pin the blame on greedy corporations and Russian President Vladimir Putin. You know, I have heard Biden deliver a number of speeches in recent weeks about the war in Ukraine, but this one sounded different because of something he kept saying.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

PRESIDENT JOE BIDEN: As Russian oil comes off the global market, supply of oil drops and prices are rising. Now, Putin's price hike is hitting Americans at the pump.

KHALID: Putin's price hike - and the president referred to Putin by name 14 times in this speech.

CHANG: Fourteen times, OK. Well, how much of an impact, Asma, could a release of oil on this scale have?

KHALID: I will say that is really unclear at this point. The president told reporters that prices could come down 10 to 35 cents a gallon, but White House advisers wouldn't really hazard a guess, at least not publicly. So I decided to pose this question to a couple of outside experts. Jason Bordoff was involved in tapping oil reserves in 2011 with the Obama White House.

JASON BORDOFF: It's causing oil prices to fall today and that may continue. We don't know exactly for how long. There's also uncertainty about whether European countries will join the United States in releasing strategic oil stocks, as the Biden administration has called on them to do.

KHALID: So part of this depends on allies and how many barrels are going to be released by allies. I also talked to Bob McNally. He's a consultant with a firm called Rapidan. He worked on these issues in the George W. Bush White House. And he said there's just no way that President Biden can make up for the disruption in the market caused by this war.

BOB MCNALLY: I doubt that even this big of a release is going to keep crude oil prices and therefore gasoline prices from rising further. And that's because Russia is the world's largest oil exporter.

KHALID: And, Ailsa, some analysts say that it'll take more than just one tool to actually bring gas prices down consistently. They say something that could have a dramatic impact is if countries like Saudi Arabia or the United Arab Emirates begin producing more oil or if, say, Iran reenters the nuclear deal and sanctions on Iranian oil are lifted. But I will say we have not seen any really substantial movement on any of those fronts at this point.

CHANG: Well, Biden has made this decision. And in arriving at this decision, can you talk about all the different political pressures that he's been facing on this?

KHALID: I mean, a lot, I will say. Republicans have been hammering the president over rising gas prices for many months at this point. You know, they are actually hosting midterm campaign events at gas stations in competitive states. And Democrats, I should say more specifically President Biden, have been under a lot of political pressure to do something. The last two times that this administration released millions of barrels of oil from reserves in just the last couple of months, it has not actually had a measurable impact on prices. But for months, Democratic analysts have told me that the president needs to look like he's trying.

CHANG: That is NPR White House correspondent Asma Khalid. Thank you, Asma.

KHALID: Happy to do it. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.