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No, U.S. oil reserves weren’t 100% full during Trump’s presidency, as he claimed

Former President Donald Trump claimed he built up U.S. oil reserves from virtually empty to 100% full during his time in office. That isn’t true.
Credit: AP
An undated photo provided by the Department of Energy shows crude oil pipes at the Bryan Mound site near Freeport, Texas. President Joe Biden is dipping again into the nation’s petroleum stockpile to try to corral rising energy prices.The White House announced Thursday, March 31, 2022, that Biden ordered the release of 1 million barrels of oil per day from the strategic petroleum reserve for the next six months.(Department of Energy via AP)

President Joe Biden announced on March 31 that the U.S. will release 1 million barrels of oil per day, or 180 million barrels total, from the nation’s Strategic Petroleum Reserve (SPR) over the next six months, an action aimed at combating rising gas prices resulting in large part from the war in Ukraine. 

In response to the Biden administration’s decision, former President Donald Trump claimed in a statement that he “built up” the country’s oil reserves during his administration to “100% full.” He also claimed that U.S. oil reserves had been “virtually empty” for 50 years. 

THE QUESTION

Did former President Donald Trump build up U.S. oil reserves to 100% full during his presidency?

THE SOURCES

THE ANSWER

   

This is false.

No, former President Donald Trump did not build up U.S. oil reserves to 100% full during his presidency.

WHAT WE FOUND

The SPR was created in December 1975 when former President Gerald Ford signed the Energy Policy and Conservation Act into law. It was meant to counter disruption in commercial oil supplies that could “threaten the U.S. economy” following an energy crisis that began in 1973, according to the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE).

Trump took office on Jan. 20, 2017. On that date, the SPR inventory was approximately 695.1 million barrels, data from the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) show.

The SPR could hold 727 million barrels of oil when Trump took office, Andy Lipow, president of Texas-based consulting firm Lipow Oil Associates, told VERIFY. The maximum storage capacity has since dropped to 714 million barrels of oil, according to the (DOE)

That means the SPR was about 95% full when Trump took office.

By the end of December 2017, the SPR had about 663.7 million barrels of oil, compared to the 695.1 million barrels when Trump took office – and EIA data show the volume continued to decline throughout his presidency. 

The SPR inventory was about 638.1 million barrels on Jan. 15, 2021, less than one week before Biden’s inauguration. That means the SPR was more full when Trump became president than it was when he left office. 

Credit: U.S. Energy Information Administration
EIA chart shows U.S. Strategic Petroleum Reserve stocks

In March 2020, Trump did propose purchasing 77 million barrels of oil in order to fill the SPR to its maximum capacity, according to the DOE. But Congressional Democrats blocked the measure, calling it an “estimated $3 billion bailout for big oil.” 

Trump’s claim about U.S. oil reserves being “virtually empty” for 50 years is also false. In December 2009, the SPR was nearly filled to its then-authorized capacity of 727 million barrels, according to the DOE. That’s the highest inventory ever held in the SPR.

EIA data also show that the SPR has never been close to empty in the past four decades. The lowest amount on record was in August 1982 when there were over 270 million barrels of oil in the reserve. 

U.S. oil reserves have continued to decline since Biden took office. As of March 25, there were 568.3 million barrels of oil in the SPR, according to the DOE. 

With Biden’s promise to release 180 million more barrels over the next six months, the SPR inventory will still be well above the lows of 1982. 

More from VERIFY: Biden claimed 9,000 oil drilling permits are unused. That’s true, but all work can’t begin ‘right now’

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