The United States announced a record-sized release of emergency crude oil reserves in March without consulting partners in the International Energy Agency, leaving them scrambling to match with releases of their own, according to two sources familiar with the matter.
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Unilateral action by Washington to address global supply or price issues risks undermining the U.S. relationship with the IEA, the world's energy watchdog that normally oversees international releases from emergency stockpiles, and could raise questions about the continued relevance of the group.
The Paris-based IEA, which groups together 31 mostly industrialized countries, was established after the 1973 oil price shock to ensure continuous energy supplies to its members in the event of an embargo, war, or devastating storm.
The group's members have become worried that U.S. President Joe Biden is using the Strategic Petroleum Reserve (SPR) to tamp down rampant domestic inflation for political reasons, instead of protecting consumer countries from a global supply disruption, according to the sources who declined to be identified because of the sensitivity of the topic.
"The IEA was embarrassed by the (U.S.) release which was at the start done essentially unilaterally by the U.S.," said a source familiar with the diplomacy around the release.
"It is the common understanding of IEA members that we must cooperate as a whole,” said another source, this one from an IEA member country, who said the U.S. announcement came as a surprise.