Republicans demand answers on Strategic Petroleum Reserve sale to China firm linked to Hunter Biden

“​The SPR was created so the US would have a stockpile of crude oil supply to be used in the case of an emergency. It was never intended to provide oil to adversaries such as China,” the lawmakers argue

Updated: July 21, 2022 - 7:27pm

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After the U.S. Department of Energy sold oil from the U.S. Strategic Petroleum Reserve to a Chinese company linked to the president’s son’s investment firm, Congressional Republicans are demanding answers and a nonprofit representing American energy workers is calling for a special investigation.

Nineteen members of the House Committee on Oversight and Reform sent a letter to Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm asking why the DOE sold nearly 1 million barrels of oil from the SPR to Unipec America, the American subsidiary of a Chinese company, Sinopec. The private equity firm, BHR Partners, founded by the president’s son, Hunter Biden, invested $1.7 billion in Sinopec in 2015, the lawmakers note.

“The decision to sell to Unipec raises questions about why the Biden Administration is selling oil from the SPR to China, especially when the sale may enrich Hunter Biden, the President’s son,” they write. “This transaction is even more troubling given that evidence continues to mount showing the Biden family peddled access to the highest levels of government to enrich themselves.”

They also asked Granholm to brief them and provide “documents related to this matter.” This was their second request for a briefing. They asked for one in May about “DOE’s decision to deplete the SPR,” they said, and didn’t get one.

Granholm hasn’t released a statement or response to their request.

The nonprofit, Power The Future, has also called for a special prosecutor and for Congress to investigate, saying, “Given the Biden family ties to Chinese energy companies, it’s important the American people learn the facts from an independent investigation.”

“The Biden Administration sent critical resources to the communist Chinese, including one firm which has the president’s own son Hunter as an investor, at the same time Americans are struggling at the pump,” its executive director, Daniel Turner, said. “A special prosecutor should be appointed, and Congress needs to investigate because the American people deserve the truth and they’re not getting it from the White House.”

While Hunter Biden’s attorney, Chris Clark, told the New York Times in 2021 that he “no longer holds any interest, directly or indirectly” in BHR, the Washington Examiner reported that he maintains 10% ownership. The New York Post reported that Hunter Biden created BHR in 2013 with Chinese businessman Jonathan Li.

The SPR, the world's largest supply of emergency crude oil, is owned by the federal government and stored in underground salt caverns in four storage sites, two each in Texas and Louisiana.

The DOE so far has authorized three SPR emergency sales, the latest of which was June 10 for 40.1 million barrels. The lawmakers are questioning an April sale in which contracts were awarded to 12 companies for 30 million barrels, including to Unipec America.

“The Biden Administration has taken significant steps to address the pain Americans are feeling at the pump as a result of Putin’s Price Hike,” the DOE said, adding that releasing 1 million barrels a day over a six-month period would lower the price of gasoline and other energy costs. But gasoline prices and inflation began increasing months before Russia invaded Ukraine and in June, gas surpassed $5 a gallon on average in the U.S. for the first time ever before trickling down in July.

“​The SPR was created so the US would have a stockpile of crude oil supply to be used in the case of an emergency. It was never intended to provide oil to adversaries such as China,” the lawmakers argue.

Any company registered in the SPR’s Crude Oil Sales Offer Program is eligible to participate in the sale, the DOE says. And seven of the companies that received the April contracts are based in Texas.

SPR inventories are the lowest since 2004 and Gulf Coast refineries are operating at 97.9%, the most in three and a half years, Reuters reported.

Ultimately, there’d be no need to draw from the SPR, those in the energy industry argue, if the administration were prioritizing domestic production.

Kathleen Sgamma, president of Western Energy Alliance, told The Center Square that the “short-term policy of SPR releases is no substitute for the long-term energy security that comes with increased U.S. infrastructure and production. To bring down energy prices and replace the strategic reserves that President Biden is depleting, we need to increase production in the United States. Producers are increasing production, but lack of pipeline infrastructure and left-wing suppression of financing are hampering our ability to truly turn on the spigots and bring down energy prices.”

The alliance and many others have sued the administration over a range of policies it’s implemented that have hampered and halted domestic production, which they argue is a root cause of escalating energy prices and inflation.

Inflation grew “at a much faster rate than expected in large part due to the loss of American energy independence,” Turner said, adding that if President Biden “wants to stop his terrible inflation,” he “should be in America’s Permian Basin telling energy workers he’s going to get out of the way.”