House passes bill to ban oil sales to China

Jan. 13 (UPI) — The U.S. House of Representatives has approved legislation to ban the sale and export of crude oil from the nation’s Strategic Petroleum Reserve to China.

The Protecting America’s Strategic Petroleum Reserve from China Act passed the Republican-held House 331-97, with 113 Democrats joining their Republican counterparts in approving the bill.

The bill specifically bars the Department of Energy from selling petroleum products from the reserve to any entity that is under the “ownership, control or influence” of the Chinese Communist Party. The department must also require as a condition of the sale of crude oil from the reserve that it not then be exported to the Asian nation.

The passing of the legislature comes amid a worldwide energy crisis that has deepened due to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, which caused the Biden administration to release more than 200 million barrels from the SPR to calm rising gas prices.

In an effort to simmer those gas prices, the U.S. government has also sought to bolster the global supply of crude oil, including selling in April fewer than 1 million barrels to Unipec America, the U.S. subsidiary of China’s state-owned Sinopec oil company.

While the Biden administration has defended the actions as a way to support American consumers and the global economy amid the war, Republicans have criticized it as needing to reach into the reserves in the first place due to its turning to green technologies.

From the floor on Thursday, Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers, R-Wa., the sponsor of the bill and chair of the House energy and commerce committee, accused President Joe Biden of having “drained” the nation’s strategic reserve to “cover up his failed policies.”

“America’s Strategic Petroleum reserve is meant for true energy supply disruptions, like those caused by hurricanes and natural disasters, not to help China,” she said. “Draining our strategic reserves for political purposes and selling portions to China is a significant threat to our national security.

“The administration is not just hurting our ability to respond to emergencies and national security events, they are actively bolstering the oil reserves of our most dangerous geopolitical adversary, the Chinese Communist Party,” she said. “This is unacceptable and it must stop.”

Democrats retorted that it is because of Republicans that exports of crude oil are allowed at all, as it was the GOP-controlled Congress that passed a bill in 2015 to lift a 40-year ban on the foreign sale of domestic petroleum products.

Rep. Frank Pallone, D-N.J., ranking member of the Energy and commerce committee, accused Republicans of creating the circumstances they are criticizing, and that if they were serious about fixing the problem they would put forth a bill to put the ban of the export of crude oil back in place.

“Republicans are here today denying their own history and muddying the truth by trying to place the blame on President Biden,” he said, adding that oil sales to China only represented 2% of that sold from the SPR.

“While I agree just like I did back in 2015 that we should not export U.S. crude oil to China, I want to stress that this bill could have been improved through bipartisan cooperation.”

Rep. Kathy Castor, D-Fla., who was among Democrats to vote in favor of the bill, said legislation they should be discussing is the bipartisan legislation introduced a day earlier that would ban the sale of oil from the reserve to China, Russia, Iran, North Korea and other sanctioned nations.

“This bill is way too narrowly tailored,” she said.

She added that China exploited the lifting of the ban and that the previous Trump administration sold it hundreds of millions of barrels of oil.

“America should not be exporting our crude oil exports to an adversary and that was our national policy for 40 years until a Republican-controlled Congress authorized sending American crude oil abroad in 2015,” she said.

The bill will now go to the Democrat-controlled Senate where its future is uncertain.

Sen. John Barrasso, R-Wy., ranking member of the Senate committee on energy and natural resources, applauded the House’s passing of the bill while urging his congressional branch to send it to Biden’s desk to sign it into law.

“China cannot be allowed to profit from our emergency energy reserves,” he said in a statement. “Now that the House has acted, the Senate should move to take up legislation to ban such sales.”


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