Debunking Donald Trump’s false claim that he ‘built up’ oil reserves

Debunking Donald Trump’s false claim that he ‘built up’ oil reserves
The strategic petroleum reserve had fewer barrels of oil on the day Trump left office than on the day he was sworn in

Former president Donald Trump’s recent claim that his administration “built up” US strategic petroleum reserves that were “virtually empty” for a half-century is a complete falsehood, according to US Department of Energy records.

Mr Trump, who was banned from Twitter and most social media platforms after inciting a mob of his supporters to attack the US Capitol on 6 January 2021, issued a statement on Thursday through his political action committee complaining about Biden administration plans to release oil from US reserves in a bid to alleviate high prices brought about by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

President Joe Biden on Thursday authorised the release of 1 million barrels of oil from US strategic petroleum reserves each day over the next six months as a “wartime bridge” to expected higher domestic production. It’s part of the Biden administration’s plan to combat rising energy prices as a result of Russian president Vladimir Putin’s unprovoked invasion of Ukraine, and the drop in supply brought on by US sanctions. Americans have felt the pain at the pump as average gas prices have surpassed $4 per gallon, which has coincided with rising prices in other sectors of the economy.

Mr Biden also slammed oil companies for refusing to increase production to make up shortfalls caused by the removal of Russian oil from US markets, saying that it should be “a moment of patriotism” for domestic oil producers.

Mr Trump attacked his successor, saying he built up the US’ oil reserves. “So after 50 years of being virtually empty, I built up our oil reserves during my administration, and low energy prices, to 100% full. It’s called the Strategic National Reserves, and it hasn’t been full for many decades. In fact, it’s been mostly empty,” he said.

“It’s supposed to be used for large-scale emergency or conflict. Now I see where Biden has just announced he’s going to take what we so carefully and magically built, and what will be a futile attempt to reduce oil and gasoline prices. They will soon bring it down to empty again. It just never ends!”

As the New York Times’ Peter Baker noted, in January 2017, at the start of Mr Trump’s term, the strategic petroleum reserve was 695 million barrels. In January 2021, when Mr Trump left office, it was 638 million barrels.

Further, Mr Trump seems to have mixed up his terms. There is no US entity known as the “strategic national reserves”, though there is a “strategic national stockpile” of medical supplies maintained by the Department of Health and Human Services.

The Strategic Petroleum Reserve is one of several US national commodity reserves, and consists of four sites along the Gulf of Mexico that can hold a total of 714 million barrels of crude oil.

According to Energy Department data, it held 695 million barrels of crude on the day Mr Trump took office.

Despite Mr Trump’s claims to have filled it, the reserve has never been “empty,” and held fewer barrels on the day he left office than on the day he was sworn in.