Democrats are urging President Obama to tap the Strategic Petroleum Reserve (SPR) to avert “potential danger to the economy” and improve “the [P]resident’s reelection chances,” Politico reports. Tapping the SPR, which exists for moments of national crisis, would constitute playing politics with a national security asset in addition to being bad energy policy.
Record-high gas prices for wintertime months are a national concern. Higher gas prices hit Americans directly each time they fill up their cars. They also cause higher prices for food, clothing, and other items reliant on transportation. The resulting impact on Americans’ pocketbooks is significant, and many families are forced to make painful cutbacks far beyond eating out less frequently or traveling shorter distances.
Robin Fehring from New York told CNN last year, when gas prices reached similar heights, that for her family high gas prices meant cutting back on groceries, taking her four-year-old daughter out of school one day a week, and possibly being unable to finish her degree in time:
“My daughter had to be cut back a full day in preschool, because we simply cannot afford to take her,” Fehring said. “She’ll ask me why she can’t go to school today and I feel terrible about it because she doesn’t understand.” [P]reschool is not the only sacrifice. Fehring said she has also cut back on groceries and may not be able to finish her early childhood education degree in the fall. She is currently enrolled in the College of Saint Rose in Albany N.Y., which is over an hour away. If gas prices continue to rise, the commute alone makes her schooling cost prohibitive, she says.
Nonetheless, tapping the SPR is the wrong energy policy to deal with high gas prices. Charles Ebinger, former foreign affairs officer at the Federal Energy Administration when the reserve was created in 1975, suggests that President Obama will repeat his misguided move to the tap the SPR, just like the President did last year in June: “Yeah, it will happen because I think they’re in panic mode in the White House; they have to show that they’re doing something.”
However, just to do “something” is no legitimate reason to tap the SPR. Heritage experts James Jay Carafano and Nick Loris outlined the limited circumstances under which the White House should release the oil, and none of the conditions for a “severe energy supply interruption” are reasonably met at this time.
Instead, Congress and the Obama Administration should pursue a real, pro-growth energy policy to address high gas prices and the barriers to job creation and economic recovery. Loris lists five actions, some of which the President could take himself, such as opening access to areas that are currently off limits for oil exploration and approving the Keystone XL pipeline. For the full list of key steps, see “High Gas Prices: Obama’s Half-Truths vs. Reality.” Tapping the SPR should not be one of them.