Chuck Schumer is calling for the release of oil from the 700 million barrel Strategic Petroleum Reserve “to avoid this economic disaster.” He might just as easily have made this demand with oil at $40 a barrel and no hurricane in sight. Liberals love idea of “free oil,” just as they love to bark about investigating oil companies every time the price of gas at the pump mysteriously rises ten cents.
Even the most economically illiterate liberals must understand, however peripherally, that opening these emergency spigots won’t accomplish much. Experts have been consistent on the point that releasing oil from the vast salt caverns under Texas and Louisiana has at best a temporary effect on prices. And now that refinery capacity is the bottleneck (thanks to draconian environmental regulation), there is even less reason to doubt them.
The administration has announced that it is considering releasing some oil, which temporarily dropped oil prices below $70 a barrel. The move seems reasonable, given how badly the flow of oil from the Gulf of Mexico has been disrupted. But no matter what the political pressure, the reserve should not be drawn down excessively so that voters can pay $3.00 at the pump instead of $3.10. Not as long as the Strategic Petroleum Reserve has Strategic in its name.