President Joe Biden said Americans will see a decrease in gas prices "before long" after ordering the release of tens of millions of barrels of oil from the strategic reserve in a move to bring down prices at the pump. Photo by Pat Benic/UPI | License Photo
Nov. 23 (UPI) -- With millions of Americans on the move this week for Thanksgiving and the cost of gas much higher than it was a year ago, President Joe Biden on Tuesday ordered the release of tens of millions of barrels of oil from the strategic reserve in a move to bring down prices at the pump.
In a move coordinated with other nations including Britain and China, Biden ordered an additional 50 million barrels from the reserve, which is an emergency stockpile of oil stored in underground tanks in the Gulf Coast area, a move he said "will not solve the problem of high gas prices overnight," during remarks from the White House.
"It will take time, but before long, you should see the price of gas drop where you fill up your tank," he said. "And in the longer term, we will reduce our reliance on oil as we shift to clean energy."
As the economy has recovered from the impact of COVID-19, inflation has pushed up the cost of many goods and services in the United States -- particularly gasoline prices, which are presently at their highest prices in years.
"American consumers are feeling the impact of elevated gas prices at the pump and in their home heating bills ... because oil supply has not kept up with demand as the global economy emerges from the pandemic," the White House said in a statement.
"That's why President Biden is using every tool available to him to work to lower prices and address the lack of supply."
The average cost for gasoline in many states in the Western United States is nearly $4 per gallon. In California and Hawaii, the average prices is above $4 per gallon. File Photo by Roger L. Wollenberg/UPI
Officials said the additional barrels of oil will be released from the strategic reserve in two ways -- 32 million barrels in an exchange over the next few months that will eventually return to the emergency stockpile, and 18 million barrels in an acceleration of sales that Congress previously authorized.
Biden described high gas prices as a problem in the United States and throughout the world and noted that while spikes in gas prices throughout history are usually temporary it doesn't mean the administration should "just stand by idly and wait for prices to drop on their own."
"We're taking action. The big part of the reason Americans are facing high gas prices is because oil producing countries and large companies have not ramped up the supply of oil quickly enough to meet the demand. And the smaller supply means higher prices globally, globally, for oil," he said.
The White House said Biden's administration is also keeping a close eye on the markets to make sure that the extra oil brings gas prices down.
"There is mounting evidence that declines in oil prices are not translating into lower prices at the pump," it said. "Last week, the president asked the Federal Trade Commission to examine what is going on in oil and gas markets and to consider 'whether illegal conduct is costing families at the pump.'"
A week ago, Biden asked the FTC to investigate conduct among gas companies.
"I do not accept hard-working Americans paying more for gas because of anti-competitive or otherwise potentially illegal conduct," he said at the time.
AAA said that the national average for gasoline in the United States on Tuesday was $3.40 per gallon, a slight decline from Monday. A year ago, the average was $2.11 per gallon.
California has the nation's most expensive gas, at $4.70 per gallon. Prices in Washington, Oregon, Arizona, Nevada and Alaska are also near the $4 mark.
Biden also asserted that his administration's efforts to combat climate change are not raising the price of gas.
"What it's doing is increasing the availability of jobs," he said.
Addressing other supply chain concerns, Biden said that Americans should be assured that they will be able to get food and gifts for their families as the holiday season begins.
"All these concerns a few weeks ago, there would not be ample food available for Thanksgiving, so many people talked about that, understandably," he said. "But families can rest easy, grocery stores are well-stocked with turkey and everything else you need for Thanksgiving and the major retailers I mentioned have confirmed that their shelves will be well-stocked in stores this holiday season."