Barack Obama gave a major speech on energy in Michigan today, in which he offered a number of new proposals to try to bring down the cost of gasoline. Over the next day or so, I intend to take a careful look at Obama’s new energy strategy. For now, though, a quick comment about Obama’s proposal to sell a portion of the Strategic Petroleum Reserve. Obama said:
We should sell 70 million barrels of oil from our Strategic Petroleum Reserve for less expensive crude, which in the past has lowered gas prices within two weeks.
This is, of course, another policy reversal on Obama’s part. Until now, he has opposed selling gasoline from the Reserve. His spokeswoman acknowledged as much:
Previously, Obama opposed tapping into the reserve, but campaign spokeswoman Heather Zichal said he reconsidered because “Americans are suffering.”
Now, I have no problem with a politician changing his mind when conditions change. Thus, I’d be delighted to see John McCain reverse himself on ANWR, on the ground that $4 gasoline demands measures that $2 gasoline doesn’t. This is the sort of rationale implied by Ms. Zichal.
But Obama’s opposition to selling petroleum from the Reserve is not some relic of the days of cheap oil. It was reiterated on July 7, in St. Louis:
I do not believe that we should use the strategic oil reserves at this point. I have said and, in fact, supported a congressional resolution that said that we should suspend putting more oil into the strategic oil reserve, but the strategic oil reserve, I think, has to be reserved for a genuine emergency. You have a situation, let’s say, where there was a major oil facility in Saudi Arabia that was destroyed as a consequence of terrorist acts, and you suddenly had huge amounts of oil taken out of the world market, we wouldn’t just be seeing $4-a-gallon oil. We could see a situation where entire sectors of the country had no oil to function at all. And that’s what the strategic oil reserve has to be for.
On July 7, oil and gas prices were higher than they are today, not lower. So Obama’s explanation that he changed his mind because “Americans are suffering” is transparently false. What has really happened is that Obama has been reading the polls, as always: John McCain has caught up with him, and poll respondents now say that they trust McCain more on energy. Hence the new policies that Obama unveiled today.
More to come.
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