The White House reportedly is thinking about tapping the Strategic Petroleum Reserve, renewing discussion of the reserve’s real purpose – whether it’s to protect against serious supply disruptions or to counter price spikes. We’d argue for the reserve’s strategic role – and suggest that if the administration wants to improve its energy standing there are positive choices that would have lasting impact.
We’ve discussed the reserve’s importance in protecting the United States from dire supply disruptions before. Current talk of a reserve draw down has some saying the administration may be more concerned with domestic politics than with the strategic energy picture. Houston Chronicle business columnist Loren Steffy, in a piece headlined: “Maybe we should rename it the ‘Political Petroleum Reserve’”:
“Oil markets have been frothy for much of the year, roiled by political uncertainty. While a mid-summer increase in pump prices is unusual, the administration’s bigger concern is the election in November. Rising gasoline prices aren’t an incumbent’s friend.”
Clearly, energy is a big issue this year. A recent poll showed 7 in 10 Americans favor: increased access to domestic oil and natural gas resources, more offshore oil and gas development and construction of the full Keystone XL pipeline. Americans get it on energy.
The administration has choices that would allow it to be in synch with that 70 percent of Americans. The president could green light the Keystone XL – and the thousands of jobs that come with it – by the stroke of his pen. The administration could take a do-over on last week’s plan to limit oil and natural gas development to just half the acreage in the National Petroleum Reserve-Alaska – which was created specifically for energy development. It could go back to the drawing board on its offshore leasing plan that keeps 87 percent of our acreage on the shelf. It could curb 11 federal agencies’ enthusiasm for regulating the production of natural gas through hydraulic fracturing – potentially chilling investment in a game-changing U.S. resource.
Each of these actions would support the administration’s claim that it is pursuing an all-of-the-above energy policy and would have a greater strategic effect on U.S. energy policy than taking a few days’ worth of oil from the strategic reserve.