Gas Problem: Political Left and Media Left Not on the Same Page

Everyone is feeling the cost of gas today. Of course, according to the Democrats, it’s all George Bush’s fault.

What would the Democrats do to help alleviate the cost of oil? One of their political-year mantras has become the demand that the President stop filling the Strategic Petroleum Reserve (SPR) and begin to tap the reserve in order to send more oil to the market and, they claim, lower oil prices.

Here are just a few examples of the Democrats’ recent calls for dipping into the SPR:

  • Sen. Dick Durbin (Ill.): Let me also address an issue which is hitting Americans in the pocketbook. Take a look at what has happened to the price of gasoline between when President Bush took office and what it is today. A gallon was $1.47 in 2001 when President Bush came to office. Now it is up to an average of $2.01. […]

    So you ask yourself: What can we do?

    First–and Senator Wyden will spend some time on this issue–why are we filling this Strategic Petroleum Reserve at a faster clip now than ever when the price of petroleum that we are putting into it is at record levels? (Congressional Record, S5736, May 19, 2004)

  • Sen. Ron Wyden (Ore.): When people up and down the west coast of the United States and across the country are getting shellacked by these gasoline prices, in effect, we are seeing consumers clobbered at the pump with dollars from their own pockets, and then taxpayer dollars are used to fill the Strategic Petroleum Reserve at record prices when it is essentially filled. (Congressional Record, S5737, May 19, 2004)
  • Sen. Harry Reid (Nev.): We also need the President to stop filling the Strategic Petroleum Reserve. It is more than 90 percent full. How much is enough? (Congressional Record, S5739, May 19, 2004)
  • Sen. Tom Daschle (S.D.): The administration has also failed to take other action that could help stem the rise in gasoline prices. It has refused to defer deliveries of oil to the Strategic Petroleum Reserve […]

    The Bush administration has been totally unengaged, not providing one scintilla of leadership in addressing gasoline prices as these prices continue to flummox the American people… (Congressional Record, S5565, May 18, 2004)

  • Sen. Ted Kennedy (Mass.): And the President should stop filling the Strategic Petroleum Reserve and release a million barrels of oil a day until prices stabilize. […]

    The Reserve was created for times of crisis, and I believe strongly that it should be used sparingly and for true emergencies. Because the Reserve is almost full today, I believe we can draw down on it without jeopardizing our strategic interests. (Congressional Record, S5612, May 18, 2004)

  • Sen. Jay Rockefeller (W.V.): Mr. President, it is my pleasure today to join with 25 of my colleagues in calling on the President to delay scheduled deposits to our Nation’s Strategic Petroleum Reserve (SPR), and to release some of the crude currently there to alleviate our current record-high gasoline prices. (Congressional Record, S5612, May 18, 2004)

In fact, liberal democratic New York Sen. Chuck Schumer and 25 democratic cosponsors introduced a Senate Resolution (S. Res. 364) calling on President Bush to invade our SPR.

    It is the sense of the Senate that– […]

    (3) to lower the burden of gasoline prices on the American economy and to circumvent OPEC’s efforts to reap windfall crude oil profits, the President should suspend deliveries of oil to the SPR and release 1,000,000 barrels of oil per day from the SPR for 30 days following the date of adoption of this resolution, and if necessary, for an additional 30 days beyond that.

One of the really interesting twists regarding these political year gasoline price worries from Democrats who voted in favor of higher gas taxes is that apparently the editorial boards of many of the nation’s major newspapers either did not receive or did not heed the message from the DNC.

What follows are excerpts from some of the country’s editorial pages.

  • New York Times: With the election season moving into full swing as Americans start thinking about their summer travel plans, it’s sadly predictable that politicians will try to curry favor with voters by playing silly blame games and proposing simplistic quick fixes for rising gasoline prices, which are averaging more than $2 a gallon. A case in point is the demand made yesterday by 20 Senate Democrats that the government release as much as 60 million barrels of oil from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve over the next two months.

    President Bush is rightly resisting the call. Since 9/11, the administration has been adding to the reserve in a disciplined manner, and it is closing in on its goal of filling up the reserve’s capacity, 700 million barrels. Tapping the reserve to assuage motorists at a time of increasing security threats to already tight fuel supplies would be foolish. (“Gasoline Hysteria,” May 19, 2004)

  • Chicago Tribune: Sen. John Kerry has called on Bush to divert oil that is headed for the nation’s Strategic Petroleum Reserve, and let it go to market. Other Democrats are pressing Bush to go further and release oil from the strategic reserve. A group of Democratic senators has proposed releasing one million barrels of oil a day from the reserve’s approximately 660 million barrels for up to 60 days.

    That, they believe, would bring prices down. But how, exactly? The global oil market totals 82 million barrels a day. One million barrels a day would have a modest impact. […]

    Releasing oil from the nation’s emergency stockpile to bring down prices was bad public policy in 2000. It would be just as bad in 2004. President Bush has so far rejected the idea. […]

    Demands to tap the Strategic Petroleum Reserve have become predictable in presidential election years, but its still a bad idea. Bush may have to listen to caterwauling Democrats, but he is right to resist them. (“Strategic Oil Politics,” May 20, 2004)

  • Houston Chronicle: Withdrawing 1 million barrels a day from the SPR to reduce the price of gasoline, as some Democrats in the Senate suggest, would be imprudent. The oil reserve was not created to manipulate the market price of gasoline, now approaching $ 2 a gallon at the pump for the lowest octane blend. […]

    The SPR, created in the mid-1970s in reaction to the Arab oil embargo, contains petroleum purchased over the years at prices much lower than today’s. Drawing down the stockpile would mean that cheaper petroleum, already paid for, would have to be replaced with today’s higher-priced barrels.

    In the summer and fall of election year 2000, then-President Bill Clinton authorized the release of 30 million barrels from the national oil reserve to keep the lid on oil prices, which presumably would help Al Gore in his presidential race. Clinton’s oil release was an example of partisan politics rather than sound energy policy. (“Strategic Reserve,” May 18, 2004)

  • Kansas City Star: As the prices rise, pressure is growing on President Bush to release oil stored in the Strategic Petroleum Reserve. But opening the spigots would be a mistake. […]

    Bush so far is sticking to his plan to continue filling the reserve, not deplete it. That’s a wise policy that will leave the nation better prepared in the event of a true crisis. […]

    Releasing oil from the reserve at this point would amount to political pandering. And it could leave the nation more vulnerable to a future cutoff of oil supplies from abroad. (“Oil Reserve Should Be Saved For Real Emergency,” May 19, 2004)

  • St. Petersburg Times: By most accounts, $2-a-gallon gasoline will be with us for a while, and few signs of inflation anger Americans more than paying for it at the pump. That has motivated some congressional Democrats to seek political gain by calling on President Bush to release oil from the nation’s Strategic Petroleum Reserve in a desperate effort to drive down prices. To his credit, the president has refused. . . .

    Yet whenever gas prices rise, politicians look to the reserve for instant gratification. (“Cheap Shots on Oil,” May 20, 2004)

  • Pensacola News Journal: President Bush is right to resist some Democrats’ demands to open up the Strategic Petroleum Reserve in an attempt to hold down gasoline prices. […]

    President Bush should keep filling the reserve and ignore calls to open it up. If Kerry is elected in November, he should do the same thing. (“Bush Right To Keep On Filling Nation’s Oil Reserve,” May 20, 2004)