Energy Department buying millions of barrels of oil to fill Strategic Petroleum Reserve

The Energy Department announced Thursday that it will purchase 77 million barrels of American-made crude oil to begin to fill the Strategic Petroleum Reserve amid the coronavirus outbreak.

“DOE is moving quickly to support U.S. oil producers facing potentially catastrophic losses from the impacts of COVID-19 and the intentional disruption to world oil markets by foreign actors,” Energy Secretary Dan Brouillette said in a statement Thursday.

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The Energy Department is expected to purchase an initial 30 million barrels of crude oil, with a focus on small to midsize U.S. oil producers.

“The small to midsize oil producers, which are the focus of the initial crude oil purchase, employ thousands of Americans,” Under Secretary Mark Menezes said. “These businesses have been particularly hard hit by recent events but under President Trump’s leadership, we are taking swift action to assist hard hit producers and deliver strong returns to the taxpayer.”

The department said that Thursday’s move is the first step in filling the Strategic Petroleum Reserve (SPR) to its maximum capacity, and noted that they are working with Congress to “finalize the funding to support the purchase.”

The move comes amid President Trump’s “whole of government” approach and public-private partnerships to combat the COVID-19 outbreak in the United States.

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The president, last week, declared a national emergency after COVID-19 was designated a global pandemic by the World Health Organization.

As of Thursday morning,  the U.S. currently had more than 9,400 confirmed cases of coronavirus in all 50 states, including Washington, D.C. The U.S., so far, has seen 150 COVID-19-related deaths.

The Trump administration’s task force predicted Tuesday that the number of cases in the U.S. could peak in about 45 days.