Hey, Let's Tap Into the Strategic Petroleum Reserve!

Another session of Sunday morning shows came around and I found myself watching Meet the Press. (Something which happens more and more since ABC made the disastrous decision to drop the indispensable Jake Tapper as host of This Week in favor of Christiane Amanpour.) One of the guests was President Obama’s Chief of Staff Bill Daley, and the subject of the discussion turned to the rising prices of both gasoline and barrels of oil.

Aha!” I thought. “Now we’re getting down to something important. The administration has been choking off domestic oil production and the unrest on the Arab street is bringing things to a boil. This is a great chance for somebody to step up with a concrete plan.”

Well, it turns out that the White House certainly is considering a plan, but not one that anyone outside of a rubber room could have predicted.

White House Chief of Staff Bill Daley said on Sunday the Obama administration is considering tapping into the U.S. strategic oil reserve as one way to help ease soaring oil prices.

Speaking on NBC television’s “Meet the Press,” Daley said: “We are looking at the options. The issue of the reserves is one we are considering. … All matters have to be on the table.”

There has been support among Senate Democrats for tapping the reserves. Senator Jay Rockefeller on Thursday became the third Democrat to ask President Barack Obama to tap America’s emergency oil supply to cool prices that have risen past $100 a barrel on the strife in Libya.

I’d like to tell you what was said during the rest of the interview, but I threw a brick through my television screen at that point.

So let me see if I’ve got this straight:

  • Oil and gas prices are rising in response to well established laws of supply and demand. Since we’re not going to magically produce all the energy we need for the next few years through “green initiatives” a good portion of this will have to come from fossil fuels for the foreseeable future.
  • We’re not producing enough oil domestically because the federal government is sitting on drilling permits like they’re holding hostages.
  • The foreign sources of oil from many of our overseas suppliers (who we’re supposed to be reducing our dependency upon because most of them don’t like us very much to start with) are now endangered as several of these countries totter on the brink of collapse.

And your solution to the problem may be to start draining our strategic reserves?

Before checking myself into a home for the terminally confused, I dropped a note to Jane Van Ryan of the American Petroleum Institute to see what they thought of such a plan. She writes:

API traditionally has opposed using oil from SPR to address price issues. The reserve was established to protect the United States against an interruption of petroleum supplies, such as occurred after the hurricanes Katrina and Rita. At that time, a few of the oil companies purchased oil from the SPR to maintain the flow of oil products to U.S. consumers.

At this time, there is a significant amount of oil available in the United States, and Saudi Arabia has said it has enough spare production capacity to make up for any shortfalls that might result from the Libyan conflict.

Those reserves are there to protect us, as Jane points out, in the event of a massive disruption in the flow of oil supplies. And for the moment, let’s put aside the commonly held opinion that the Obama administration is currently acting as the biggest disruption of domestic oil supplies. With Libya and other nations in the region experiencing unrest – or the threat of it – I would think that this is precisely the time when the United States would be seeking to top off those reserves, if not expand their total storage capacity. Draining them even before foreign supplies are cut off is nothing short of the height of folly.

And all the while, domestic producers are standing around by the Gulf of Mexico – as our British friends might say – with their tallywhackers in their hands, ready and willing to produce the oil we need, but waiting on Washington approval.

The inmates are running the asylum. I’ve lost most of my capacity to remain civil and balanced on this question. This is a matter of not only energy independence, jobs and fiscal recovery, but of national security. And these sorts of answers rob the Obama administration of any and all credibility when it comes to possessing a sane energy policy.