The People of America's Oil and Natural Gas Indusry

Non-strategic Thinking

Mark Green

Mark Green
Posted June 23, 2011

Trying to figure out the administration's decision to drain 30 million barrels of oil from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve (SPR) - when there's no current U.S. supply crisis and while the administration is continuing to fight increased access to domestic oil supplies. Trying, but not succeeding.

Remember that the 727 million-barrel reserve was created after the 1973 oil embargo to protect the U.S. from dire supply disruptions. So, is there a crisis? Actually, government figures show the United States is well supplied, with stocks at above-average levels.

The Energy Information Administration says U.S. stocks of crude oil (excluding the SPR) have risen steadily since the first of the year, standing at nearly 364 million barrels as of June 17 (up from about 347 million in January). Gasoline stocks also are up (214.6 million barrels compared to 205.9 million in mid-May).

Yet the administration thinks now's the time to tap the strategic reserve for 30 million barrels (about a day and a half of U.S. consumption) - even as it continues to oppose legislation in Congress that would open up access to domestic oil supplies. API President and CEO Jack Gerard, in an interview with CNBC:

"It's confusing as to why we would wait to this point to release part of the (SPR), but we've still failed to step forward and say let's bring long-term supply to the marketplace, create American jobs at a time when we have 9.1 percent unemployment and produce millions of dollars of federal revenue at time when we're struggling with a debt and deficit crisis. ... Just yesterday the administration sent a letter to Capitol Hill opposing a permitting bill that was designed to expedite permits in Alaska to produce oil and natural gas. We are getting a confused message."

Here's what Gerard's talking about: The United States could and should be taking steps to increase its own production by 2 million barrels a day or more for decades - which is possible if the government would grant much greater access to America's ample oil and natural gas reserves.

In the long run this would do more for consumers, increase energy security, create jobs and help solve the debt and deficit crisis, to which Gerard referred, by delivering more revenue to government.

Instead of a long-term energy strategy that would help keep the strategic reserve in reserve, the administration seems to be taking action for the sake of taking action trying to cover itself while the economy keeps struggling. Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) of the Senate's energy committee:

"It seems that the administration is tampering with the Strategic Petroleum Reserve to deflect attention from the continuing bad economic news and dodge political accountability. These reserves are not a political tool and should not be used as such. I appreciate the administration's acknowledgement that supply actually does matter, but raiding the national stockpile is a poor substitute for a sensible, long-term energy plan."

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Mark Green joined API after a career in newspaper journalism, including 16 years as national editorial writer for The Oklahoman in the paper’s Washington bureau. Mark also was a reporter, copy editor and sports editor. He earned his journalism degree from the University of Oklahoma and master’s in journalism and public affairs from American University. He and his wife Pamela live in Occoquan, Va., where they enjoy their four grandchildren.