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Pallone Floor Remarks on Strategic Petroleum Reserve & China Bill

Jan 12, 2023
Press Release

Energy and Commerce Committee Ranking Member Frank Pallone, Jr. (D-NJ) delivered the following remarks on the House floor today in opposition to H.R. 22, the Protecting America’s Strategic Petroleum Reserve from China Act:

Mr. Speaker, I rise in opposition to H.R. 22, the “Protecting America’s Strategic Petroleum Reserve from China Act.”

First, let’s take a moment to remember how we got here. In 2015, when Republicans last controlled Congress, they lifted the 40-year ban on crude oil exports at the urging of their Big Oil friends. This irresponsible policy change allowed companies to export American-owned barrels of oil to our adversaries, including China. Again, that was a Republican policy pushed by House Republicans eight years ago.

As a result, our crude oil exports to China surged, averaging a half million barrels every day during the last year of the Trump Administration. China hoarded these barrels to build up its own petroleum reserves. 

Back in 2015, I strongly opposed that Republican bill out of concern that it would harm our energy security and ultimately lead to increased prices at the pump for hardworking American families. It turns out I was right. And now Republicans seem to be complaining about the very circumstances that they created, all to reward their Big Oil friends.

Lifting the export ban damaged our economic security. Refineries across the country – including in my home state of New Jersey – have closed since the export ban was lifted, in no small part due to oil companies’ desires to seek greater profits abroad rather than send their oil to refineries here at home.

A GAO analysis in 2020 showed that domestic refineries suffered because of the export ban being lifted, a suffering that was then inflicted on the thousands of hard-working Americans whose jobs were destroyed.

If Republicans were serious about addressing this issue, they would have brought forward a bill that banned all oil exports to China. SPR barrels sold to Chinese firms represented only 2 percent of all the oil we sent to China last year. If we truly want to address China using American oil to build its reserves, let’s actually take a serious look at that, rather than skirt around the issue because Republicans are scared of Big Oil’s wrath.

And why are Republicans only banning SPR sales to China? Representatives Houlahan and Bacon introduced a bill last Congress that prohibited SPR sales to Russia, North Korea, Iran, and any country under U.S. sanctions. That bill had 37 bipartisan cosponsors. Are my Republican colleagues okay with exporting oil to Putin’s Russia in the midst of a war on Ukraine?

It also speaks volumes that this is their first energy priority after regaining the House majority. Over the last two years, Democrats passed the most significant climate law in our nation’s history. We also passed the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law that will modernize our energy infrastructure.

But Republicans’ first energy bill this Congress isn’t about investing in the resiliency of our electric grid or making American energy cleaner and cheaper. Instead, they’re just recycling an old one-page bill that takes a minor step in undoing the damage that they themselves caused. 

Republicans are here today denying their own history and muddying the truth by trying to place the blame on President Biden. But President Biden successfully used the SPR to lower prices at the pump and provide relief to American families. When gas prices increased last year, the Biden Administration took decisive action to bring gas prices back down by releasing oil from the SPR. The Administration released an unprecedented one million barrels of oil a day, providing critical domestic supply to make up for shortages in the aftermath of the war in Ukraine.

This was a commonsense strategy that worked, and thanks largely to President Biden’s actions, gasoline prices have fallen an average of $1.90 per gallon nationwide since their peak in June.

But one thing this episode underscores is that fossil fuel prices are volatile. As long as we rely on gasoline and other fossil fuels to meet America’s energy needs, our country’s energy security and affordability remains at the whims of dictators on the other side of the world.

While I agree, just like I did back in 2015, that we should not export U.S. crude oil to China, I want to stress that this bill could have been improved through bipartisan cooperation, regular order, and Committee consideration. If Republicans hope to actually enact legislation, this is not a pathway to success. I reserve the balance of my time.