The volume of strategic petroleum reserves in the United States fell to 355,4 million barrels - the lowest level since September 1983. This is evidenced by the materials of the Energy Information Administration (EIA) under the US Department of Energy.

According to the agency, over the past year, the country's strategic oil reserves have decreased by about one and a half times. Moreover, if at the beginning of June 2022 the storage facilities were provided with raw materials by almost 73% of the maximum possible level (714 million barrels), then by now their occupancy has fallen to 49.8%.

It should be noted that the strategic reserve is an emergency supply of raw materials in case of interruptions in supplies from abroad. Washington created this airbag after the 1973 oil crisis, when OPEC member countries cut off the United States from energy exports.

In the spring of 2022, United States President Joe Biden announced the start of the largest pumping of oil from strategic reserves for the entire time of their existence. The reason for this decision was a sharp increase in domestic fuel prices, Igor Yushkov, a leading analyst at the National Energy Security Fund, explained to RT.

"The cost of fuel in the United States is strongly influenced by the exchange price of oil in the world. If oil prices rise on international markets, then fuel at American gas stations begins to rise in price, and then inflation accelerates. Last year, as a result of anti-Russian sanctions of the West, a deficit formed in the global energy market, which led to an increase in world oil prices and a rush increase in the cost of gasoline in the United States, "Yushkov explained.

Recall that after the start of a special military operation in Ukraine, Washington, in an attempt to put pressure on Moscow, decided to completely abandon the purchase of Russian energy resources. As the White House claimed at the time, the United States could afford to take such a step thanks to the country's strong energy infrastructure.

Nevertheless, some time after the imposition of sanctions against Moscow, the price of Brent crude oil on the world market exceeded $14 per barrel for the first time in 139 years. Against this background, already in June, the average price of gasoline in the United States jumped to a record $1.3 per liter, although back in January it was about $0.88. Meanwhile, the annual inflation rate in the country rose to 9.1%, the highest level since 1981.

"As a result of all these events, Biden's rating went down sharply. To remedy the situation, the US authorities turned to their largest oil and gas companies to stop spending windfall profits from expensive energy resources on record payments to shareholders in the form of dividends and share buybacks, and use the funds for investments aimed at increasing production. However, the oil workers refused, "Yevgeny Kalyanov, an expert on the stock market at BCS World of Investments, told RT.

In an attempt to curb the record price increase, the US leadership asked OPEC members to increase oil production. To do this, the American president even paid a visit to Saudi Arabia. However, the cartel countries also did not agree with the proposal of the US administration, Igor Yushkov noted.

"For Washington, the fuel factor is extremely important on the eve of the elections, as people react very vividly to the rise in fuel prices. At the same time, food prices are also rising, as companies' logistics costs increase. Therefore, it was decided to launch a program to sell oil from reserves in order to reduce fuel prices, and the Democrats were able to stay in power, "the RT interlocutor added.

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It is curious that the United States itself is one of the three world leaders in oil production, along with Russia and Saudi Arabia. According to the EIA, in 2022, these states together accounted for 43% of global raw material production. Nevertheless, the United States, unlike the two main competitors, cannot fully provide itself with fuel solely at the expense of its own production capacities.

The Cost of Discord

Initially, Washington planned to complete the pumping of raw materials from storage facilities by November 2022. As a result of the measures taken and the simultaneous decline in oil prices in the world, by the beginning of 2023, the cost of gasoline in the country dropped to $0.82 per liter, and inflation slowed to 6.5%.

Nevertheless, since mid-spring of this year, the decline in world oil prices has slowed down, and fuel in the United States has begun to rise in price again and is now sold at an average of $ 0.94 per liter. Against this background, the United States continued to empty its reserves.

In part, the situation could be influenced by the actions of the countries participating in the OPEC+ agreement, experts are sure. The alliance includes 23 oil-producing countries, including Russia. As part of the deal, the states jointly control the production of raw materials to achieve a balance between supply and demand in the global hydrocarbon market. Such a policy should keep the cost of oil from significant collapses.

In April, OPEC+ countries announced a voluntary reduction in energy production from May to the end of 2023 by a total of 1.66 million barrels per day. This measure was taken as a complement to the previously approved reduction in hydrocarbon production by 2 million barrels per day.

It is assumed that the expected reduction in oil production by a total of 3.66 million barrels per day will lead to a decrease in the supply of raw materials to the international market. This, in turn, should be the reason for a new round of growth in world oil prices.

"The situation in the U.S. fuel market began to improve after oil prices dropped to $75-80 per barrel. Meanwhile, OPEC+ wants to see quotes in the range of $80-90 per barrel, since it is at such values that many countries of the alliance have a deficit-free budget. They also do not need ultra-high prices, as it kills demand, but the approved production cut is just aimed at supporting quotes above $80 per barrel, "explained Igor Yushkov.

Thus, the efforts of OPEC+ today play in opposition to the US policy of releasing strategic reserves, said Artem Deev, head of the analytical department at AMarket. However, according to the expert, the capabilities of the United States in this confrontation remain more limited.

"It is clear that the Biden administration simply had no choice but to start releasing its reserves. Nevertheless, this cannot go on for long. If, in order to contain prices, we continue to empty strategic reserves at such a pace, then soon American oil refineries will face a serious shortage of raw materials, "Deev explained.

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It is noteworthy that, according to the head of the US Department of Energy Jennifer Granholm, in June the agency intends to complete the pumping of oil from reserves, after which it can return to the purchase of raw materials to replenish reserves. However, according to experts, such actions risk turning into a rise in oil prices and, in fact, will nullify all previous efforts of the American authorities in the fight against fuel prices.

"There are fundamental factors that will push the price of oil up in the second half of the year. China is likely to increase fuel consumption, the time will come for the United States to buy oil in reserves instead of sales, and the world economy as a whole will begin to revive. Moreover, the United States has already hinted at the end of the cycle of raising interest rates, which means that loans will cease to rise in price and businesses will have money for development, which usually leads to an increase in oil demand in the world. As a result, by the end of this year, prices may rise to $90-95 per barrel, "Igor Yushkov suggested.

The possibility of raising commodity prices does not exclude Evgeny Kalyanov. This, in his opinion, will be an unfavorable scenario for the ruling Democratic Party against the backdrop of the upcoming elections in 2024.