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WASHINGTON: The United States, India, Japan and South Korea acted in on Tuesday to release oil from their respective strategic petroleum reserves to combat high prices stemming from major oil exporting nations not ramping up production ahead of a busy holiday travel season.
In what is the first such coordinated action, the White House announced that the Department of Energy will release 50 million barrels of oil from the country’s Strategic Petroleum Reserve. Concurrently, India committed to releasing 5 million barrels from its reserve for a start. The quantum of release from Japan and South Korea was not immediately know. China has also been invited to join the group but it has not responded so far. Britain is also expected to join in.
Gas prices are at a seven year peak in the US and the Biden administration is taking a lot of heat for it from Republicans for whom it is a potent political weapon. Average gas prices across the nation is around $3.40 per gallon (approx Rs 70 per liter), but in parts of California it is more than $5 a gallon.
Biden is scheduled to deliver remarks later today on the economy, including “lowering prices for the American people,” amid disquiet across the nation over rising prices and inflation.
“American consumers are feeling the impact of elevated gas prices at the and in their home heating bills, and American businesses are, too, because oil supply has not kept up with demand as the global economy emerges from the pandemic. That’s why President Biden is using every tool available to him to to lower prices and address the lack of supply,” the White House said in statement ahead of the speech.
The current crisis has its origins in the pandemic, during the early days of which demand for oil plunged, leading oil producing nations to cut production to keep prices stable. Demand has since ticked up with the waning of the pandemic and increasing travel and trade, but the so-called OPEC+, which includes major oil producing nations and Russia, have rebuffed calls to increase output.
It is not clear, much less certain, how much the release from strategic reserves will help with lowering prices, considering the amount released barely covers a few days of use. The US burns up nearly 20 million barrels a day. The coordinated move is thought to show intent.
It is also the first time India and the US have acted in concert in the matter despite New Delhi’s close ties with oil producers in its neighborhood. The two countries signed a preliminary agreement in July last year for cooperating on emergency crude oil reserves, including allowing India to store petroleum in the US emergency stockpile on a rental basis.

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