SitNews - Stories in the News - Ketchikan, Alaska


Stop filling national gas tank, Congress says
An editorial / By Dale McFeatters
Scripps Howard News Service


May 14, 2008

Congress has taken an ineffectual step toward curbing gasoline prices. This week it directed President Bush to suspend filling the Strategic Petroleum Reserve. That the gesture was pure public relations is evidence by the lopsided vote, 97-1 in the Senate and 385-25 in the House. (The lone dissenting senator is retiring this fall.)

President Bush opposed the legislation, but he's not running for reelection and the lawmakers are and they're under pressure to something, anything, about gasoline prices even it it's almost wholly symbolic, as this is.

During the 1973-74 Arab oil embargo, the government designated a network of salt caverns on the Gulf Coast as a strategic reserve. It currently holds just over 700 million barrels of oil -- about two months supply -- and is 97 percent full.

The reserve was created to respond to major disruptions in supply, not to control price fluctuations. The example Bush likes to use is an al-Qaeda attack on a major U.S. oil facility.

But as for prices, as the president likes to point out, the 70,000 barrels a day being pumped into the caverns are less than one-tenth of one percent of the 85 million barrels the world consumes each day. It makes sense in pocket book terms for the government to stop or slow buying when oil prices are high and resume when they begin to fall.

Given $4 a gallon gasoline, any savings a motorist would see are likely to be negligible. The administration estimates maybe 5 cents a gallon at most. The Democrats claim a savings of 24 cents. And those savings could be quickly gobbled up by further price increases.

As energy policy, the vote on the SPR doesn't mean much, but the number of Republicans willing to desert the president speaks volumes about his fast declining clout with Congress.

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