Energy

About 3 in 5 Voters Support Strategic Petroleum Reserve Oil Release

Roughly half of Republicans and 7 in 10 Democrats support the measure, which comes as the Biden administration releases 15 million barrels of oil from the SPR

Photograph of Strategic Petroleum Reserve storage site
In an aerial view, the Strategic Petroleum Reserve storage at the Bryan Mound site is seen on Oct. 19, 2022, in Freeport, Texas. (Brandon Bell/Getty Images)

In his latest effort to lower energy costs across the nation, President Joe Biden announced last week that he would release an additional 15 million barrels of crude from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve, part of an earlier planned release of 180 million barrels total. While the move won’t happen until December, a new Morning Consult/Politico survey finds more than half of U.S. voters support releasing oil from the SPR.

Nearly 3 in 5 Voters Back Release of Oil From Strategic Petroleum Reserve

Voters were asked whether they support or oppose the following methods that the federal government could pursue to reduce gasoline prices:

Survey conducted Oct. 21-23, 2022, among a representative sample of 2,005 registered voters, with an unweighted margin of error of +/-2 percentage points.

Among several gas price measures, Republicans have high levels of support for increasing domestic crude supply, while Democrats favor the targeting of oil companies 

  • Among voters overall, 57% support releasing oil from the SPR, including 70% of Democrats and 48% of Republicans.
  • The survey also included other measures to reduce gas prices, with a ban on price gouging as the most popular provision among voters (76%).
  • Republicans were most supportive of domestic supply policies like asking domestic producers to pump more oil (77%) and opening up public lands for drilling (76%).
  • Meanwhile, 4 in 5 Democrats backed going after companies by banning price gouging and asking oil majors to lower prices.
  • The least popular measure was asking oil-exporting countries like Iran, Iraq and Venezuela to pump more oil, with support from only 46% of voters, including 36% of Republicans and 58% of Democrats. 

Biden’s SPR plans receive cool reception from Republicans, oil industry

The Biden administration’s December release of 15 million barrels of crude from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve comes amid rising energy costs just before the midterm elections. 

The SPR acts as an emergency supply of crude for the nation and can hold up to 714 million barrels in underground salt caverns along the Gulf Coast. As of last week, officials said the SPR held about 400 millions barrels of crude. 

The move in March announcing the release of 180 million barrels did not do much to stifle sky-high gasoline prices this summer. The most recent announcement has largely been criticized by Republicans, who tend to favor domestic production policies and are using high energy prices to sway voters. Meanwhile, Democrats have praised the recent release as they face midterms that have the potential to reshape Congress while having to quell voter concerns about inflation and cost of living. 

But while Biden has promised to refill the reserve when oil prices hit between $67 and $72 a barrel or less, hoping that producers will drill more, higher drilling costs and lower short-term crude prices are not sparking much drilling interest from oil companies

Oil industry trade groups and companies have also largely come out in opposition to a possible fuel export ban, which would theoretically help refill the reserve, although the Energy Department said such a measure was not being considered currently but has not been completely ruled out.  

Prices surged this year after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, while most recently the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries and its allies, including Russia, voted to curtail production by 2 million barrels per day in an attempt to boost the oil market.

The latest Morning Consult/Politico survey was conducted Oct. 21-23, 2022, among a representative sample of 2,005 registered voters, with an unweighted margin of error of +/-2 percentage points.