New Role for Strategic Oil Reserve Seen by U.S. Energy Secretary

The Strategic Petroleum Reserve should be tapped to ease global oil-price shocks and not be limited to easing U.S. supply emergencies, Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz said Monday.

Moniz said rising U.S. crude production gives the nation more flexibility in how it uses the reserve, created four decades ago in response to supply shortfalls caused by the Arab oil embargo. The four underground salt caverns can hold more than 700 million barrels of oil.

Putting crude from the reserve into the domestic market provides the U.S. with “the most valuable protections” from oil-market disruptions, Moniz said at a conference sponsored by the Energy Information Administration in Washington.

“It is time for a re-evaluation,” of the reserve, Moniz said. Any changes would require congressional approval.

Moniz said the oil wouldn’t be exported, but would still add to global supplies to ease price shocks that have increased along with turmoil in the Middle East.

The Energy Department in a quadrennial review in April recommended upgrades for the oil reserve, including improving the distribution system and giving the president more leeway to tap the stockpile. The review estimates investments of $1.5 billion to $2 billion.

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