Biden dips into petroleum reserves
A move Tuesday by President Joe Biden to release 50 million barrels of oil from the nation’s Strategic Petroleum Reserve is more symbolic than it is a practical effort to reduce rapidly escalating gas prices in the United States, according to Connecticut economists, scholars and fuel industry experts.
The release of the petroleum reserves is being done in concert with other major energy consuming nations, including China, India, Japan, Republic of Korea and the United Kingdom. U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., praised Biden’s move in a tweet just hours after the White House announced the release of fuel reserves.
“Biden’s release from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve shows welcome resolve to stop spiraling prices at the pump,” Blumenthal tweeted. “As I’ve urged, it can be a boost for consumers — in confidence & pocketbooks — as well as overall economic progress.”
Others said the action will have little impact on gas prices.
“We’re talking a couple of cents at the pump and whatever the savings there are in gas prices is going to be eaten up by home heating oil costs,” said Donald Klepper-Smith, chief economist and director of research for DataCore Partners and a former chairman of the governor’s Economic Advisory Council under Gov. M. Jodi Rell. “This is more of a gesture and a political one at that. What’s driving this increase in prices is demand for energy because travel is on the rise, so you’re not going to see a decline there.”
A decade ago, the U.S. Department of Energy established Northeast Home Heating Oil reserves sites in Groton and New Haven. The New Haven site is located in the New Haven Terminal complex and is owned by Houston-based Buckeye Partners. Buckeye Partners also operates the home heating oil reserve site in Groton on Eastern Point Road.
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John Rosen, a University of New Haven economics professor, said the release of the petroleum “is a drop in the bucket” for a nation that uses 18 million barrels of fuel every day.
“It’s a signal to the markets that the government is willing to do this and maybe willing to keep doing it,” said Rosen, who added he doesn’t expect to see the resulting price reduction take effect for at least a month. “The point of this is to apply some short-term pressure on the market.”
Kevin Curry, a partner in the Meriden-based wholesale fuel distributor Danby’s, said release of the oil reserves should have driven down the price of gasoline futures on the RBOB market, which stands for reformulated blendstock for oxygenate blending. But RBOB prices rose steadily throughout the day Tuesday to nearly 2.86 percent.
“I’m in the business and I don’t get it,” Curry said of Tuesday’s rise in the gasoline futures index.
The average price for a gallon of regular gasoline in Connecticut on Tuesday was $3.56, up six cents from a month ago and $1.43 from a year ago, according to AAA. The national average price for a gallon of regular gas on Tuesday was $3.40, up two cents from a month ago and $1.29 from a year ago.
Biden’s release of petroleum reserves came a week after the president asked the Federal Trade Commission to investigate how the oil and gas markets are operating and whether there was any illegal activity.
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