In his weekly radio address to the nation on Saturday July 12, 2008 George W. Bush called on the Democrat led congress to ”address the pain that high gas prices are causing our citizens.” Democrats have steadfastly maintained restrictions on tapping into large known reserves like the Alaskan National Wildlife Reserve (ANWR), oil shale deposits in places like Colorado, and offshore in US controlled ocean waters.
The Democrats didn’t appreciate the President’s criticism. Speaking on behalf of the Democrats, Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-MD) offered a forceful – but foolish – rebuttal. Van Hollen claimed the gas price crisis could be resolved if energy companies would fully develop the millions of acres of public land that is leased but not been drilled to fullest potential. He also suggested tapping the Strategic Petroleum Reserve (SPR).
Now, think about it – do you suppose with oil prices approaching $150 per barrel that any energy company would avoid drilling on land with reasonable expectation of producing oil? All land is not created equal with regard to energy production any more than all land is suitable for growing corn or building shopping centers. The Democrats claim they favor more drilling. Sure they do; just not where oil actually exists!
The SPR was first conceived at the end of World War II. The reality that an enemy could severely damage the defense capability of the United States by limiting or destroying our access to energy, especially as dependency on foreign sources became more necessary was obvious. As the name implies, the SPR was for “strategic” reasons, not economic. Nonetheless, whenever prices rise some politician wrongly suggests tapping the SPR to temporarily increase supply and hopefully reduce prices.
The SPR contains enough oil to satisfy the nation’s needs for a mere 5 weeks. Draining the SPR at a time when America gets 2 out of 3 barrels of oil from foreign sources, and many of them regimes that don’t have our best interests at heart, should add to our national security anxiety. Iran has recently threatened to close the Strait of Hormuz through which flows 40% of the world’s oil demand. Any blockade, however temporary, would aggravate the world economy immediately not to mention concerns for war and increased international instability.
The current energy price crisis is driven by limited supplies in the face of rapidly escalating global demand. Whatever temporary relief tapping the SPR would provide, restoration of the SPR at some future point when supplies would doubtlessly still be stretched would most certainly stress prices. Democrats are arguing for increased security risk and future price volatility in exchange for at best a very limited and temporary relief in pump prices today. It’s a fool’s plan and America deserves better.