U.S. Sen. Chuck Schumer is calling on President Obama to tap the nation's strategic petroleum reserves, a move that the senator argues would abate skyrocketing fuel prices amid growing unrest in the Middle East.
Gas prices are at their highest levels since September 2008 — a politicalist like myself must note that that's shortly before Mr. Obama was elected president — sparked in large part by what appears to be an impending civil war in Libya, and fears that the conflict will spread to other oil-producing states, like Saudi Arabia or Iran.
The country's strategic reserve — 700 million barrels of oil — is intended for use during a "severe energy supply interruption," Mr. Schumer said on his Facebook page earlier today.
Here's the release, in full, with Mr. Schumer's letter to the president at the bottom.
U.S. Senator Charles E. Schumer today called on President Barack Obama to deploy the Department of Energy’s Strategic Petroleum Reserve in order to clamp down on skyrocketing gas prices in New York and around the country. In the wake of the recent unrest in the Middle East, which has affected the supply from Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) member nations, such as Libya, in addition to disruptions at critical transportation choke points like the Suez Canal in Egypt, the price of oil has climbed to new heights. Last Friday the weekly U.S. average price per gallon of oil climbed to $3.51, a 33 cent jump from two weeks ago and the second largest price increase in a two-week period in U.S. history, and up 78 cents from a year ago, the highest price posted since September 2008. In the wake of these surging oil prices, Schumer, in a letter to the President, urged the administration to tap the Strategic Petroleum Reserve in order to address the supply disruption and offset the rising cost of gasoline to keep America’s recovery going strong.
“With oil prices surging day after day, Americans are being squeezed at the pump and paying more for everything from groceries to plane tickets,” said Schumer. “The unrest in Libya and the Middle East has disrupted supply and triggered rapid price hikes that are gobbling up an ever bigger share of consumer spending. Tapping the Strategic Oil Reserve would not only provide much needed relief to New Yorkers and Americans across the country – it would also help ensure that our economy doesn’t slip back into a decline. Even a commitment by the administration that it stands ready to tap the reserve could help calm jittery markets.”
The Strategic Petroleum Reserve would be a much needed shot in the arm for our economy. Established by the U.S. government in the wake of the 1970s Arab oil embargo, the reserve has been used since then to deal with crises that disrupt oil production. It was last used after Hurricanes Gustav and Ike in 2008, and was also tapped in 2005 after Hurricane Katrina. With 727 million barrels of oil, the reserve has enough capacity to sustain the country on its own for a month. In accordance with the Energy Policy and Conservation Act, President Obama has clear statutory authority to access these reserves during a “severe energy supply interruption” like the situation in Libya. If accessed, the 4.4 billion barrels could be drawn and entered into markets within two weeks.
Tapping the reserve would not only help keep down gas prices down – it would also help ensure that the United States economy remains on the path to a full recovery. Higher oil prices not only increase costs at the pump - they also drive up home heating prices, as well as costs for consumer goods like groceries that require oil to be transported. They also increase the costs of other forms of transportation that require gas, like airline flights. Economists worry that higher oil prices could stall the U.S. economic recovery.
A copy of Schumer’s letter to President Obama is below.
Dear President Obama,
I write to respectfully ask that your Administration deploy the Department of Energy’s Strategic Petroleum Reserve in order to safeguard economic growth and offset surging gasoline prices. In recent weeks the price of oil has skyrocketed, which has affected New York residents and working-class Americans. Last Friday the weekly U.S. average price per gallon of oil climbed to $3.51, up 78 cents from a year ago, and the highest price posted since September 2008.
In the wake of the recent unrest in the Middle East which has affected the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) member nations, such as Libya, the price of oil has managed to climb to new heights. It is for this reason that I urge your Administration to immediately access the Strategic Petroleum Reserve in order to offset the rising cost of gasoline and the strain this increase has placed on consumer confidence.
While I have long held, and continue to contend, that it is incumbent upon our nation to become energy independent we still require stable petroleum prices to fuel our economy. As you are aware, the price of oil has a significant impact on our national economy, in industries ranging from aviation to agriculture. Additionally, high oil prices also affect working-class Americans who depend on a reasonable price of gas to fuel their travel to and from work. It has become evident, with the price of crude oil hitting its highest price since September 2008, that we must act affirmatively to offset these costs.
The Strategic Petroleum Reserves holds in excess of 700 million barrels of oil, the largest stockpile of government-owned emergency crude oil in the world. Your administration has the clear statutory authority to access these reserves in accordance with the Energy Policy and Conservation Act. According to this Act, following a finding by the President that a “severe energy supply interruption” has occurred, an interruption which the situation in the Libya has caused, the Strategic Petroleum Reserve may be utilized. If accessed, the 4.4 billion barrels could be drawn and entered into markets within two weeks. Finally, I trust that you will continue working with other oil producing countries to ensure that they also take appropriate action to stabilize global oil prices, and that their actions do not undermine any actions taken by your Administration.
This important action by your administration would help to stabilize these exorbitant fuel prices serving as a welcomed reprieve to nearly every sector of our economy and working-class Americans. Thank you for your attention to this important matter.
U.S. Senator Charles E. Schumer