Weekly Columns

Strategic Political Raid

Senator John Boozman's Column for the Week of August 8, 2011

Aug 08 2011

While our national focus—for understandable reasons—has been on the debt limit debate, few noticed when an important date passed us by with little fanfare.  On July 23rd, we marked one month since the White House raided the Strategic Petroleum Reserve (SRP), our emergency fuel supply maintained by the United States Department of Energy.

Prior to 2011, this reserve had only been tapped during Operation Desert Storm and post- Hurricane Katrina, two events that clearly warranted quick executive action.  This recent raid, however, was nothing more than a political emergency.  The President claimed it was necessary “due to the major supply disruptions in Libya.”  However, the U.S. only gets 2% of our oil from Libya, which hardly creates a “major disruption” on our supply at home.

What really happened is that President Obama randomly released 30 million barrels of oil claiming that it would relieve the pain Americans were feeling at the pump.  In reality, it was to relieve the political heat he was feeling from high gas prices.  It didn’t help consumers save, and it certainly shouldn’t help the President’s political clout either.

Even with the raid on our emergency stock, the cost of gasoline has soared.  At the time President Obama tapped the reserves, the national average cost of gas was slightly over $3.60 a gallon.  Today, the national average price is around $3.70 a gallon.  

So now, in addition to increasing oil prices, tax payers will have to pony up even more to replace the unnecessary 30 million barrels that were released from the SPR, adding insult to injury since we got absolutely nothing out of the President’s actions in terms of relief at the pump.  It is clear that the Administration’s misguided decision was another wasteful political maneuver that is ultimately hurting the taxpayers.

Instead of political games, the White House needs to issue more energy permits in the West and Alaska.  By opening the Outer Continental Shelf and the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge for exploration, we can make a major dent in the fight against high gas prices.  Additionally, the President and his allies in Congress need to stop blocking the Offshore Production and Safety Act of 2011, which would end the ban on deep water drilling in the Gulf of Mexico.

America’s resources are larger than the combined supply of Saudi Arabia, China and Canada.  Instead of pointlessly tapping into America’s emergency energy supply, the Administration should look to the untouched energy resources. These actions would lower the cost of gasoline, reduce our dependence on foreign oil and create jobs here in America.  That is a real energy strategy, not a political strategy like raiding SPR.