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House Democrat Questions Why Biden Is Selling U.S. Oil From Strategic Reserve Abroad

How it started:

Rep. Ro Khanna a Democrat from California, has a different strategy. Instead of hiding from the bad news at the pump, he says, Democrats should go on the offensive and identify a culprit of its own: the oil and gas industry. “I don’t think it’s enough to have a message of ‘blame Putin,’” Khanna told me on May 3. “Someone is going to get blamed in American politics… and that blame should fall on the big oil companies.”

How it was going:

Rep. Ro Khanna (D-Calif.) is calling on President Joe Biden to stop exporting oil from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve to other countries and to step up domestic oil production in the United States.

Khanna told Fox Business’s “Mornings with Maria Bartiromo” on Thursday that the United States has to bring down gas prices “in the short term.”

Aaaaaaand here’s where we’re at today. Rep. Ro Khanna (D-CA) takes an opportunity here not to blame American oil companies or Vladimir Putin. Following up on reports that the Biden administration used releases from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve (SPR) not to increase domestic supply but to increase export sales, Khanna places the blame for high gas prices and airline tickets firmly on Joe Biden. And he’s not too shy to go on Fox News to do it, either:

Jazz wrote about the SPR exports yesterday, so be sure to read that post first, but it’s worth revisiting here today for at least one detail that didn’t immediately get much attention. Reuters reported that one of the destinations for those sales was China, which is almost inexplicable:

A million barrels per day of emergency reserves are being released, aimed at lowering fuel prices

But 5 million of them ended up in Europe and Asia in June, blunting the initiative

Customs data shows 470,000 barrels shipped to Italy

Sources say reserve crude was also headed to the Netherlands, India and China

Why would we sell any of the SPR releases abroad? The exports to the EU may make some sense as a means to buffer the impact of the sanctions we have imposed on Russia. Their energy sectors have been hardest hit, and we have been trying to support them — as best we can, since Joe Biden won’t do what Khanna suggested two weeks ago when speaking to Maria Bartiromo.

But why are we selling SPR oil to China, of all places? Not only are they our economic rival, they’re buying oil from Russia rather than join in the sanctions intended to cut off funding for the invasion of Ukraine. Put aside the fact that Biden claimed that the SPR oil releases would be used to increase domestic production of gas, diesel, and jet fuel. Even if it was going to be exported, the last place it should go is China.

This clip from Khanna doesn’t break new ground on that in and of itself, but the focus and tone change from Khanna is well worth noting. Less than two months ago, Khanna wanted to redirect any blame for the supply crisis in gasoline and diesel away from Biden and the White House and apply it fully to “the big oil companies.” A month after that, Khanna edged up to but didn’t quite start blaming Biden, but the tacit criticism in telling the White House to start incentivizing domestic production was clear enough. Today, Khanna’s openly criticizing Biden and — at least in this clip from the conversation — doesn’t have much to say about the “big oil companies.”

It’s yet another indicator that rank-and-file Democrats have changed direction on Biden. Khanna isn’t a Squad member by any means, but he’s definitely in the progressive wing of the party and aiming at leadership positions. He’s even hinted at a presidential run, which is a bit unlikely at the moment. Khanna’s also lectured his fellow Democrats to “rally around” Biden, telling the New York Times yesterday that they need to focus on “strengthening this president’s hand.”

“The Democratic Party needs to rally around President Biden heading into the midterms and heading into the president’s re-election,” he said. “If people have constructive ideas, they should share them. But they should do it in a spirit of strengthening this president’s hand.”

Mr. Khanna said Democrats need to find constructive ways to channel their anger and frustration about abortion, gas prices and other issues into action. He said the party’s leaders should not hesitate to take actions like imposing more regulations on guns, restoring a woman’s right to an abortion or making it easier for Americans to afford everyday goods.

“I guess my view of it is that we will have a lot more success doing that with constructive dialogue with the White House than taking potshots at the president,” he said.

That didn’t last long, did it?

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