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If we’re serious about protecting American oil, China is only the beginning


  • 1.9.23 hill op-ed

Originally published in The Hill

By: Rep. Chrissy Houlahan (D-PA)

Though we’re now in a new year, we continue to face the same global challenges we did in 2022. As Russia continues its war in Ukraine, North Korea steps up its provocations of the West, and the Iranian regime tightens its grip in the face of ongoing protests, the United States must confront multiple adversaries both economically and militarily. And we are. Bipartisan support for the Ukrainian people’s resistance has been just one inspiring piece of evidence that Americans can still come together to stand up to our adversaries around the globe. 

But Thursday, Congress could miss a major opportunity. 

As part of our response to Putin’s invasion of Russia and the ensuing rise in energy costs, President Biden activated our Strategic Petroleum Reserve. This was an important part of our nation’s answer to Russia’s aggression and our own economic challenges. However, I was shocked to hear that companies connected to the Chinese government purchased some of this oil. Prompted by a constituent’s question during one of my town halls, I discovered that there is a loophole allowing companies and even adversarial governments to purchase oil released from America’s Strategic Petroleum Reserve. What’s more, this loophole has been open for years, dating back to 2015. If there was ever an opportunity for bipartisan problem-solving, it’s closing this loophole.

I am glad that the new majority in the U.S. House will take up legislation closing this loophole related to China and Chinese companies Thursday. However, I don’t believe that this legislation goes far enough. What about North Korea? Iran? Russia? I understand that there are those who would be satisfied with the political points that come from passing a limited bill focusing only on China. However, there is a bipartisan alternative that would put our national interest above these sorts of incomplete and partisan gamesmanship—my bill, the Banning Oil Exports to Foreign Adversaries Act.

For the past seven months, I have worked with fellow veteran Rep. Don Bacon, a Republican from Nebraska, to advance the Banning Oil Exports to Foreign Adversaries Act. This bipartisan legislation would bar any and all of our foreign adversaries from accessing our national reserves, including not only China but also North Korea, Russia, Iran, and any other country under sanction by the United States. I’m proud that our work garnered 37 co-sponsors in the 117th Congress, including 13 Republicans. Our bill also earned the endorsement of the For Country Caucus, a cross-party group of military veterans serving in the House. Furthermore, similar legislation was introduced in the Senate by Sens. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) and John Kennedy (R-La.), indicating that this approach has a better shot of passing both chambers.

I certainly agree with my colleagues that the rising threat of China should be a priority in America’s foreign policy. In fact, I look forward to supporting an effort to establish a new committee proposed by our Republican majority dedicated exclusively towards our military and economic competitiveness with China. But we must not lose sight of other threats – we can, and must, walk and chew gum at the same time. In late December, I led a bipartisan congressional delegation to Scandinavia. As I spoke with officials from our allied nations, and our own troops stationed there, it was clear the Russian threat is a continued and growing presence. If we focus solely on China as a national security threat, we do so at our own peril.

This is not about Democrats or Republicans, or one party getting a victory over another. Our national security should not be beholden to partisanship. I ask my Republican colleagues to take this critical opportunity to ensure that none of our adversaries, beyond just the Chinese Communist Party, can benefit from releases from our strategic oil reserves, and put our security ahead of talking points.

Chrissy Houlahan is an Air Force veteran, an engineer, a serial entrepreneur, an educator, and a nonprofit leader. She represents Pennsylvania’s 6th District, which encompasses Chester County and southern Berks County. She serves on the House Armed Services Committee, the House Foreign Affairs Committee and the House Small Business Committee.