If The President Does It, That Means It Is Not Political

|

Liberal blogger Oliver Willis compares a George W. Bush quote from 2000 with his actions today re: the Strategic Petroleum Reserve. From 2000:

The Strategic Reserve is an insurance policy meant for a sudden disruption of our energy supply or for war. Strategic Reserve should not be used as an attempt to drive down oil prices right before an election. It should not be used for short-term political gain at the cost of long-term national security.

And from today:

I've directed the Department of Energy to defer filling the reserve this summer. Our strategic reserve is sufficiently large enough to guard against any major supply disruption over the next few months. So by deferring deposits until the fall, we'll leave a little more oil on the market. Every little bit helps.

And if the poll numbers dip below 32%, the government is prepared to tap the Strategic Free Pony Reserve.

NEXT: John Stuart Mill Still Looking Fresh at 200

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of Reason.com or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  1. To be fair, this does make sense: You stock up on something and put it into a reserve when the price is low (or at least falling), not when it’s high.

  2. Absent an explanation of why the Strategic Reserve really isn’t ‘full enough’ (which is entirely possible), I don’t really see the contradiction here.

  3. I didn’t RTFA, but not contributing to during high prices is not the same as tapping. Is it?

  4. I agree with thoreau, and I tend to see all of Dubya’s gas price posturing as simply empty symbolic gestures meant to placate congressional Republicans anxious that the Democrats will exploit the gas situation in November.

  5. I’m pretty sure the issue in 2000 was whether to release oil from the SPR, not to defer adding to it. Maybe a half point deduction from Bush for not making that distinction, but hardly a disqualification.

  6. I don’t think tapping the strategic reserve is enough. …we need rationing.

    Fix the price, and then everybody with an even number as the last number on their license plate can only buy gas on even numbered days…

  7. I don’t think this is a big deal, but to address thoreau’s point, the logic of the SPR dictates that the US government should always seek to maximize its holdings regardless of price as long as the oil markets are open. The SPR’s official mission is not to function as an oil speculation program, but assure the US government access to oil supplies in the event of a disruption. According to the DoE’s website on it, the Secretary of Energy was directed last year to actually expand the SPR’s capacity: http://www.fe.doe.gov/programs/reserves/index.html

  8. Ken…my plate says “DVL ADVO” When do I get gas?

  9. This won’t be a problem when we all drive vehicles powered by love and compassion for our fellow man.

  10. SR-

    Right, but isn’t it smarter to do more stockpiling when prices are low and less stockpiling when prices are high? I realize that this isn’t about speculating to buy low and sell high, but just as public contracts are ostensibly given to the lowest bidder (yes, I know, it doesn’t always work that way), shouldn’t petroleum reserves mostly be built up when prices are low?

  11. “This won’t be a problem when we all drive vehicles powered by love and compassion for our fellow man.”

    Great news for the Free State Project – they won’t need to buy speed limit signs.

  12. SR,

    Despite the fact that the government office I work in is not charged with speculating on office supplies, we do try to take advantage of deals when stocking the supply closet.

  13. There’s no surplus refining capacity so this does nothing for the price of gasoline. But he does look like he’s “doing something” on the TV.

  14. I’m pretty sure the issue in 2000 was whether to release oil from the SPR, not to defer adding to it. Maybe a half point deduction from Bush for not making that distinction, but hardly a disqualification.

    Here’s the Bush quote that Oliver used:

    Today my opponent, in response to public outcry, proposed that our nation tap into the Strategic Petroleum Reserve. That?s bad public policy.

    No half point deduction. He was actually quite clear about the distinction.

  15. I wonder how much fuel the Iraq and Afghan occupatiosn are using up? Every little bit counts, right? An M1 Abrams uses Kerosene for its turbine and fuel economy is measured in gallons per mile!

    The Diesel Humvwee, especially the up-armored variety, can’t get much better mileage.

    I have yet to see any honest political talk about the regulatory climate that is truly to blame for our price woes.

  16. This won’t be a problem when we all drive vehicles powered by love and compassion for our fellow man.

    My alternative power alternates between love/compassion and misanthropy/animosity about 60 times a second.

    Don’t the gas and oil companies have their own strategery reserves? I seem to remember something about them buying when prices are low but for some reason they neglected to do so this last time. I’m blanking a bit!

  17. joe:

    That was nice …

  18. If Bush is doing this because of the price, does that mean he expects the price to be lower in the fall? thoreau’s logic only works if one can foresee the future price of oil. Whether or not adding to the reserve is the same as tapping depends on how the reserve normally works, which I don’t know myself, though SR’s description makes it sound like this is not normal. A lot also depends on Bush’s genuine motivation, which without any inpertinent memos or leaks to help, is of course open to interpretation by all our furtive imaginations.

  19. Damnnabbit, I guess Bush is a Politician! Whodathunkit?

  20. I always wanted a pony. Since my parents didn’t give me one, I guess that puts me in a good position to petition the government for redress of that particular grievance.

  21. On the plus side, looks like Operation Iranian Freedom might be on hold. Otherwise you’d think they’d top off the SPR.

  22. While they’re at it, I wish the government would flood the market with cheap Dom Perignon. Dammit, that shit is EXPENSIVE!!

  23. I just about spat my coffee this morning when I heard the President call on the oil companies to reinvest their profits into additional refining capability.

    Good God, wouldn’t they be leaping to do so, if they didn’t know that they’d be Sierra Clubbed until their brains were leaking out of their shirtsleeves?

    Look, I grew up along the Gulf of Mexico, where we drove by refineries on a pretty regular basis — I know that they smell bad, they take up lots of space, and you worry about their safety.

    But until our cars do run on love and compassion, perhaps we ought to consider being a bit more tolerant of expansion plans and new construction to add refining capacity.

    And, of course, let’s open ANWR – duh!!! – the caribou will go right on making baby caribou, and the few acres “destroyed” by drilling operation will not have a material impact on the overall environment there.

    While we’re at it, the current price of crude is making oil shales more and more attractive. Let’t head off the enviro-commies at the pass and ensure that oil shale mining and exploitation is not hindered by their bleating.

    Long-term, I’m very enthusiastic about the new technologies that convert waste streams into petroleum of various grades. My understanding is that this is not a net energy gain, but it does enable you to convert energy provided from one source (nuclear, for example) efficiently into a form that can support our existing and extensive oil economy.

  24. A thread in which I agree with Joe. My ears are bleeding.

    I have 4 cars. I guess that means I can buy gas whenever I want.

    With the National Guard force the gas station to deliver and sell gasoline at the rationed price? Cool. We can have a domestic war for oil.

    The turbines in our tanks can run on puppies and small children. No worries.

    No one has offered to tap the Stategic Ethanol or MTBE Reserves.

  25. Ken…my plate says “DVL ADVO” When do I get gas?

    Never. …Don’t you know there’s a war going on?

  26. I believe that in last night’s seance, John Lennon said to me, “rac, all you need is Love Love Love to operate your Yukon Denali.” When are we going to start filling up our Strategic Love Reserves people?

  27. bubba – I think the “four cars” sort of thing really did happen in Mexico City. When the government decreed that you could only drive on alternate days, depending on what your license plate was, the wealthy just bought more cars/license plates.

  28. You can fill my Strategic Love Reserve whenever you want, rac.

  29. What’s funny to me is that a lot of the same folks complaining about high gas prices also want people to explore alternatives to oil. It’s like they don’t understand expense makes substitutes more attractive.

  30. What happened to all that “oil sand” up in Canada? Is it cost effective to start squeezing the Texas tea out of that yet?

  31. I’d like to pipe up that biofuels are better than love and compassion, and at $3.00 a gallon, they may be less expensive than fossil fuels too. …that, of course, doesn’t mean that the ROE’s the same, etc., etc.

    Anybody noticed the number of closed stations over the last few years? …The desire to keep distribution costs low is surely a competitive concern, but coupled with severe environmental regulations for existing gas stations–I believe every station in the country had to pull up their tanks over the last few years–and really tough local zoning laws, I’m not so sure that reducing the number of overall stations doesn’t have an anticompetitive component to it as well.

    When the barriers to entry become so high, naturally, it’s that much more difficult (or impossible) for new competitors to enter the industry.

    If the President really wants to do something about gas prices, I have a suggestion…

    I keep hearing people call for some kind of windfall tax on oil profits, and when the oil companies start reporting first quarter profits in a couple of weeks, I’m sure we’ll hear that a lot more. If the President really wanted to do something about oil prices, something sensible, he’d call for federal taxes on gasoline, rather than corporate profits, to be sliced by whatever amount per gallon above some threshold.

    Unleaded gasoline futures are trading at about $2.17 a gallon right now, and the price down the street is at $3.11. …now there’s some distribution costs in there, and some of that’s state tax, but there’s no reason the state can’t let me keep more of my money too…

  32. May Ethanol’s at about $2.64 a gallon in trading, without taxes and distribution, by the way.

  33. What happened to all that “oil sand” up in Canada? Is it cost effective to start squeezing the Texas tea out of that yet?

    The Tar Sands have been producing since 1967 or so. Production has gone up and down with prices.

    The people around Ft McMurray probably think the current price is hot stuff.

  34. Oh baby! Tap that pony!

  35. the government is prepared to tap the Strategic Free Pony Reserve.

    Yay!!!

  36. What happened to all that “oil sand” up in Canada? Is it cost effective to start squeezing the Texas tea out of that yet?

    Some googling reveals that there is much bitching going on because Canada won’t be able to meet its Kyoto obligations if it produces so much synthetic crude…amongst other kvetches.

  37. “According to the DoE’s website on it, the Secretary of Energy was directed last year to actually expand the SPR’s capacity”

    A little windfall like that is the least Bush and Cheney could do for their owners.

  38. Let’s convert to ethanol as soon as possible. This way when we run out of booze we can tap into our cars.

  39. There’s definitely something interesting about the fact that methanol, if it wasn’t taxed and disregarding distribution costs, would cost less than unleaded gasoline taxed as is.

    I’ve never seen a tax that I thought shouldn’t be eliminated. …and I don’t know for certain that ethanol is taxed just like unleaded gasoline. (I’ve heard that if you make you’re own, they don’t tax it like pure grain alcohol if you put mustard in it and make it inconsumable.) …but if ethanol is taxed like unleaded gasoline, then I think we should completely eliminate that tax.

    I think we should eliminate the tax on unleaded gasoline too, but if they’re taxing ethanol, there’s a great case to make for killing that tax like right freakin’ now.

    P.S. I’d just as soon kill all subsidies for ethanol too.

  40. Fort McMoney is expanding its production just as fast as humanly possible. The draw of people from all across Canada and the world is simply unbelievable, but there are bottlenecks.

    The main problems are that it is really freaking far North, and so building in the winter sucks, and spring construction is very very hard (melting snow + melting tar sands = really impassable terrain), and that its a small remote town with few women. Your prototypical boomtown, with all the usual problems. Finally, oil sands projects are multi billion dollar endeavours, so it does take many years to get them onstream, and even $75 oil can’t make them go any faster.

Please to post comments

Comments are closed.