The US Petroleum Strategic Reserve: Origins and Evolution

Purdue University’s FORCES initiative publishes reports on the state and future evolution of strategic resources and technological systems. Professor of Library and Information Studies and FORCES Senior Fellow, Bert Chapman, continues the reports with a comprehensive overview of the U.S. Strategic Petroleum Reserve (SPR), located on the Texas and Louisiana Gulf Coasts. The report include:

  • Information on the historical origins of U.S. national petroleum reserves dating back to 1910.
  • The U.S.’ increasing growth as a petroleum consumer and its energy policy interactions with other countries.
  • How the 1973 Arab Oil Embargo forced drastic changes in U.S. energy policy leading to the SPR’s establishment.
  • The SPR’s legal purpose being creating and maintaining a strategic oil reserve to mitigate against future oil import interruptions or disruptions.
  • Managerial and other developments in SPR’s nearly five-decade history making extensive use of government information resources.
  • Information about SPR facilities and their national petroleum distribution routes.
  • Coverage of subsequently established related regional SPR infrastructure including the Northeast Home Heating Oil Reserve and Northeast Gasoline Oil Supply Reserve.
  • Presidential legal authority to make drawdowns and authorize sales from the SPR and the controversy this has produced during the Biden Administration.
  • Academic assessments of SPR and historical and contemporary congressional critiques of presidential administration and Energy Department SPR policymaking.
  • SPR’s importance as a geopolitical asset if petroleum supply disruptions occur in areas as varied as the Straits of Hormuz and Malacca as well as individual countries including Venezuela, Saudi Arabia, and Iraq.
  • Petroleum remaining an important part of domestic and energy consumption for the foreseeable future which increases SPR’s importance.
  • Biden Administration damage to domestic energy production and prices demonstrated by hostility to domestic drilling on land and oceanic waters and unrealistic expectations about the ability of renewable energy resources to meet domestic economic and national security requirements.
  • Congressional efforts to restrict SPR oil sales to hostile countries such as China.
  • The importance of the U.S. diesel fuel market to the SPR in terms of impact on consumer prices and the supply chain.
  • Recommendations on enhancing and strengthening SPR’s long-term strength and viability including increasing SPR’s maximum size, not using SPR for short-term political expediency and directly linking it to affordable American energy, and enhancing the scope of supply chain security by expanding the Biden Administration’s February 24, 2021 Executive Order 14017 to strengthen domestic petroleum industry resilience.

Download and read the full report on the US Strategic Petroleum Reserve