With oil prices surging to their highest levels since September 2008, the Obama administration is considering tapping into the Strategic Petroleum Reserve (SPR). The reserve was created during the oil crisis of the 1970s, and now holds 727 billion barrels of crude, enough to meet the nation's oil needs for 70 to 75 days. Presidents have tapped it before in times of crisis, such as during the first Iraq War in 1991, and after Hurricane Katrina in 2005. Now with gas prices jumping 33 cents a gallon in just two weeks, some Democrats in Congress are pressing for Obama to use the reserve. Should he? (Watch The Week's Sunday Talk Show Briefing about oil and the economy)
Yes, we may have to: The disruption of our oil supply "is at risk of getting worse before it gets better,” says Sen. Jeff Bingaman (D-N.M.), as quoted in The New York Times. High oil prices alone don't justify tapping the reserve. But if the situation in Libya gets any worse, or the turmoil spreads, we need to be prepared to act. And just announcing that we are tapping into the reserve "would help to moderate escalating prices."
"Calls mount to tap U.S. oil reserves"
There is no need... yet: The strategic reserve exists in case our oil supply is disrupted, and that hasn't happened yet, says Michael Levi in the Council on Foreign Relations blog. And even if you believe, like I do, that the reserve can also be used when prices get "dangerously high," we're not there either. Prices have jumped because people are anxious about more revolts in the Middle East, and tapping the reserves won't "calm people's nerves."
"It's too early to use the Strategic Petroleum Reserve"
Tapping our reserves is madness: No one "outside of a rubber room" could back this idea, says Jazz Shaw at Hot Air. The Obama administration is choking off the domestic oil supply by "sitting on drilling permits." And with the unrest in the Arab world, the U.S. should be "seeking to top off" its reserves or expand them. "Draining them even before foreign supplies are cut off" would be "the height of folly."
"Hey, let's tap into the Strategic Petroleum Reserve!"