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During a June 26, 2011, interview on CBS’ Face the Nation, Rep. Michele Bachmann -- a Minnesota Republican who was one day away from officially announcing a bid for the presidency -- criticized President Barack Obama’s recent decision to release oil from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve.
The reserve is a complex of four sites near the Gulf Coast that holds "emergency supplies of crude oil" owned by the U.S. government. On June 23, the Obama administration announced that it would release 30 million barrels of oil from the reserve, to "offset the disruption in the oil supply caused by unrest in the Middle East," according to the Energy Department. U.S. allies promised similar actions.
On Face the Nation, Bachmann took aim at this policy. Her comment came as she responded to host Bob Schieffer’s question about the accuracy of some of her past statements as judged by PolitiFact. Schieffer specifically referenced a Truth-O-Meter item in which we gave Bachmann a Pants on Fire rating for saying that there had been only one offshore oil drilling permit during the Obama administration.
Here’s a portion of the exchange between Schieffer and Bachmann:
Bachmann: "It’s ironic and sad that the president released all of the oil from the Strategic Oil Reserve because the president doesn’t have an energy policy."
Schieffer (overlapping): "Do you think that was a good move?"
Bachmann: "He has a politically correct environmental policy."
Schieffer (overlapping): "Was that a good thing?"
Bachmann: "It was a very bad move. It pu t-- it has made the United States more vulnerable. There’s only a limited amount of oil that we have in the Strategic Oil Reserve. It’s there for emergencies. We do not -- the emergency that we have is the fact that ... the president of the United States has failed to give the American people an energy policy. Here’s the good news that a lot of Americans don’t even realize. We are the No. 1 energy resource-rich nation in the world according to the Congressional Research Service. But the president of the United States has unfortunately put American energy resources off limits."
Several readers asked us to check Bachmann’s statement that "the president released all of the oil from the Strategic Oil Reserve," suggesting that Bachmann was incorrect in using the word "all" to describe the release. So we decided to look into it.
We turned to the administration’s official announcement. Here’s an excerpt:
"U.S. Energy Secretary Steven Chu announced today that the U.S. and its partners in the International Energy Agency have decided to release a total of 60 million barrels of oil onto the world market over the next 30 days to offset the disruption in the oil supply caused by unrest in the Middle East. As part of this effort, the U.S. will release 30 million barrels of oil from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve (SPR). The SPR is currently at a historically high level with 727 million barrels."
So the release of 30 million barrels accounts for just over 4 percent of the current holdings in the reserve -- nowhere near "all" of it.
It's possible Bachmann meant to say, "the president released oil" or "some oil" from the reserve, in which case she would have been accurate. (We reached out to Bachmann’s staff, but they did not respond to our inquiry by publication time.)
However, we saw no effort by Bachmann to correct any misimpression from her comment, either in the Face the Nation interview or elsewhere. In any event, we give significant weight to the actual words a speaker says -- and viewers watching the interview would have been led to believe that Obama had released all the oil in the reserve. We rate Bachmann’s statement False.
Michele Bachmann, interview on CBS' Face the Nation, June 26, 2011
U.S. Energy Department, "Department of Energy to Release Oil from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve," June 23, 2011
U.S. Energy Department, "Strategic Petroleum Reserve - Quick Facts and Frequently Asked Questions," accessed June 27, 2011
Christian Science Monitor, "US to tap Strategic Petroleum Reserve to drive gas prices down," June 23, 2011
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