A group of nearly 30 House Republicans are pressing Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm over her recently disclosed talks with a Chinese government official ahead of the Biden administration’s decision to tap emergency oil stocks.
In a letter to Granholm sent Monday afternoon, 29 Republicans led by House Energy and Commerce Committee Chair Cathy McMorris Rodgers expressed concern that the energy secretary privately consulted China National Energy Administration Chairman Zhang Jianhua, a senior member of the Chinese Communist Party, before the White House announced its first Strategic Petroleum Reserve (SPR) release.
According to internal Department of Energy (DOE) calendars obtained by Americans for Public Trust and shared last week with Fox News Digital, Granholm held private calls with Jianhua on Nov. 19, 2021, and two days later on Nov. 21, 2021. On Nov. 23, 2021, the White House announced a release of 50 million barrels of oil from the SPR.
“We are troubled by recent reports that you, in your official capacity as Secretary of Energy, had multiple conversations with the Chinese Communist Party’s top energy official just days before the Biden administration announced it would release oil from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve in 2021,” McMorris Rodgers and the other Republicans wrote.
“This is concerning given the Department of Energy’s mismanagement of the SPR, which has left our country more vulnerable to energy supply disruptions and strengthened the leverage of our adversaries to use energy as a geopolitical weapon,” the Republicans continued.
Republicans have repeatedly raised the alarm on the Biden administration’s SPR policy, noting that it has drained the critical emergency stock of crude oil while potentially giving an advantage to adversaries who have built up their reserves in the meantime.
Since November 2021, Biden has ordered the DOE to release a total of about 260 million barrels of oil stored in the SPR to combat high fuel prices hitting American consumers.
The SPR’s level has fallen to about 347.8 million barrels of oil, the lowest level since August 1983, according to Energy Information Administration data released Monday. The current level is roughly 42% lower than its level recorded days prior to the November 2021 release.
The DOE told Fox News Digital that Granholm only held one conversation with Jianhua, a 30-minute call one day before the White House announcement. The calendars reviewed by Fox News Digital do not indicate the Nov. 19, 2021, meeting was canceled.
“When global supply fell short and prices soared, the Biden administration took decisive action. Secretary Granholm and other Administration leaders organized countries like China, India, Japan, South Korea, and the UK to follow America’s lead on oil releases, bridging the gap and giving American producers time to meet energy demands,” a DOE spokesperson said in a statement.
“The goal was to bring relief to families and we delivered — oil prices dropped nearly 10 percent,” the spokesperson continued.
Gasoline prices skyrocketed after the administration’s SPR releases, hitting an all-time high in June 2022. According to AAA data, gas prices hit $3.83 a gallon Monday, nearly 13% higher than they were a day before Biden announced the first release.
In addition, the Biden administration has sold at least 2 million barrels of oil from the SPR to Unipec, an affiliate of the state-controlled China Petrochemical Corp. Jianhua, who met with Granholm in 2021, served in a leadership role for years at the China Petrochemical Corp., Reuters previously reported.
The first such sale was part of an SPR sale of 20 million barrels awarded to eight companies in September 2021. The other two — both sales for 950,000 barrels of oil — came in April 2022 and July 2022.
“China now likely controls one of the world’s largest stockpiles of oil, at the expense of American taxpayers and our energy security,” the Republicans continued in their letter to Granholm on Monday. “The Biden administration has helped support China’s national security at the expense of our own security by using our strategic energy supplies to help the Chinese build up their own strategic reserves.”
“China poses one of the greatest economic, security, and geopolitical threats to the United States, while continuing to be one the world’s worst polluters,” they added. “As a result of this administration’s war on American energy and political abuse of the SPR, Americans have become more vulnerable to true energy and national security emergencies while China has profited.”
As part of its announcement in November 2021, the White House said it was releasing oil from U.S. reserves in conjunction with “other major energy consuming nations including China.”
President Biden, though, said in remarks after the announcement that China “may do more as well,” and Granholm told reporters during a separate press briefing that China “will make its own announcement.”
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