John Kirby dodges question on whether draining strategic oil reserves hurts national security

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John Kirby, the National Security Council coordinator for strategic communications at the White House, dodged a question Wednesday on whether President Biden’s repeated tapping into the U.S. Strategic Petroleum Reserve (SPR) weakens national security.

During the White House daily press briefing, the former Pentagon spokesman was asked by Fox News’ Peter Doocy, “How much lower can we let the strategic petroleum reserves get before that becomes a problem?”

Pentagon spokesman John Kirby speaks during a briefing at the Pentagon in Washington, Friday, April 29, 2022.  

Pentagon spokesman John Kirby speaks during a briefing at the Pentagon in Washington, Friday, April 29, 2022.   ( (AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta))

Kirby said that was a question for someone else.

“I think I would refer to the president’s energy advisers on something like that, Peter,” he said. “I don’t know what the inventory is, but I do remind, and I think you know this, the president did tap into the strategic oil reserves to try to relieve some of the pressure at the pump, and he’ll use a range of tools available to him going forward. I think that’s about the best I can do on that.

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Doocy also asked Kirby whether “it’s in the U.S. national security interest to ask Saudi Arabia to drill more oil instead of just letting oil companies drill more here in the U.S.”

Pentagon Press Secretary John Kirby holds a news briefing at the Pentagon on March 09, 2022 in Arlington, Virginia. 

Pentagon Press Secretary John Kirby holds a news briefing at the Pentagon on March 09, 2022 in Arlington, Virginia.  (Kevin Dietsch/Getty Images)

Kirby responded, “I think you know, Peter, there’s some 9,000 unused drilling permits here in the United States as well. Look, the oil production issue is a global issue, and OPEC+3 has already increased pre-set increases by more than 50 percent just from July and August. And we’re grateful to Saudi Arabia’s leadership on that. But we’ve never said it’s a national security interest that somebody has to pump more oil. And again, there’s unused permits here in the United States.”

The Energy Department keeps an inventory tracker of the SPR on its website, which was last updated Friday with a total inventory of 511.6 million barrels of crude oil.

President Biden has tapped the emergency oil stash three times over the past year in hopes of lowering gas prices, including most recently in March, when he ordered a record-setting 180 million barrels of oil released from the reserve. 

President Biden speaks about inflation and supply chain issues at the Port of Los Angeles, Friday, June 10, 2022, in Los Angeles. 

President Biden speaks about inflation and supply chain issues at the Port of Los Angeles, Friday, June 10, 2022, in Los Angeles.  ((AP Photo/Damian Dovarganes))

The release has driven the level of the reserve to the lowest point since 1987, according to Reuters, and yet prices at the pump have continued to break records every day, reaching a national average of $5.016 per gallon on Wednesday.

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The Biden administration announced plans last month to replenish the oil reserve with a call for bids to repurchase 60 million barrels of oil – roughly one-third of the emergency supply released by the president in March. 

Reuters reported Wednesday that the U.S. Department of Energy announced it was selling up to 45 million barrels of oil to be delivered from Aug. 16 through Sept. 30.

Fox News’ Megan Henney and Kelly Laco contributed to this report.