Frankfurt: All 31 members of the International Energy Agency have agreed to release 60 million barrels of oil from their strategic reserves – half of them from the United States – “sending a strong message to the oil market” that “there will be no shortages”, the group said on Tuesday , after Russia invaded Ukraine, the supply was running low.
The board of the Paris-based IEA made the decision at an extraordinary meeting of energy ministers chaired by U.S. Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm. She said in a statement that President Joe Biden approved a commitment of 30 million barrels and that the U.S. is ready to “take additional measures” if needed.
The group’s “decision reflects our common commitment to address significant market and supply disruptions related to President Putin’s war on Ukraine,” Granholm said.
Russia plays an outsized role in global energy markets as the third-largest oil producer. Its exports of 5 million barrels of crude per day amount to about 12% of the global oil trade. Some 60% goes to Europe and another 20% to China.
So far, U.S. and European sanctions have not banned oil or gas exports and include exceptions for transactions that pay for oil and gas. Western leaders are reluctant to curb Russian oil exports at a time when global energy markets are tight and high prices are fueling inflation in advanced economies.
But the invasion still shook global markets. Oil prices surged on Tuesday, with U.S. benchmark crude trading above $100 a barrel — the highest price since 2014.
“The situation in energy markets is very serious and demands our full attention,” IEA executive director Fatih Birol said. “Global energy security is under threat, putting the world economy at risk during a fragile stage of the recovery.”
Besides the United States, other members of the organization include Germany, France, the United Kingdom, Japan and Canada. IEA members hold emergency stockpiles of 1.5 billion barrels of oil. The release amounts to 4% of stockpiles, or roughly 2 million barrels per day for 30 days.
It’s only the fourth time in history that the IEA has done a coordinated drawdown since the reserves were established in the wake of the Arab oil embargo in 1974.
From the U.S. perspective, the price of crude oil determines a big portion of what drivers pay to fill up their cars with gasoline. The national average for a gallon of gas is $3.61, which is 26 cents more than a month ago and 90 cents more than a year ago, according to motor club federation AAA.
In November, Biden announced a coordinated release of 50 million barrels of oil with other energy importers, but the measure’s impact on oil prices, which continued to rise, was only temporary.
Granholm stressed the need to invest in renewable energy to reduce reliance on Russian oil and gas.