The FRED® Blog

US strategic petroleum policy

New insights from the Research Division

The FRED Blog has used data from the US Energy Information Administration (EIA) to discuss the income-adjusted weight of gasoline prices and the price elasticity of demand for gasoline. Today, we discuss a related topic: the strategic use of petroleum reserves by the US Congress to ease gasoline prices.

The FRED graph above shows data from the EIA about gasoline prices in each of the five “PADDs”—that is, Petroleum Administration for Defense Districts. These districts were drawn during World War II to help ration gasoline. Gasoline is no longer rationed, but the PADDs allow EIA data users to analyze patterns of crude oil and petroleum product movements throughout the nation.

Our graph allows FRED users to note the synchronized movement of gas prices across these districts and the noticeably higher gasoline prices recorded in the West Coast District, which includes Alaska and Hawaii.

A more contemporary element of strategic energy management is the US strategic petroleum reserve (SPR). This reserve is made up of a series of storage sites that hold up to 714 million barrels of oil. Releases from the SPR have been used to ease supply shortages due to natural disasters and disruptions to the global supply of oil. A recent essay by Christopher Neely at the St. Louis Fed briefly explains the history and traditional use of the SPR and explores alternative strategies for it.

For more about this and other research, visit the website of the Research Division of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis, which offers an array of economic analysis and expertise provided by our staff.

How this graph wase created: Search FRED for and select “PADD I (East Coast District) All Grades All Formulations Gas Price.” From the “Edit Graph” panel, select the “Add Line” tab to search for the same data series with the following heading: “PADD II (Midwest District).” Repeat that last step for the remaining three data series: “PADD III (Gulf Coast District),” “PADD IV (Rocky Mountain District),” and “PADD V (West Coast District).”

Suggested by Diego Mendez-Carbajo.