President George W. Bush and his opponent for the presidency, Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., will spend much of the summer criticizing each other and pointing out political differences.
Fortunately, there's one issue on which they apparently agree. Neither one thinks it would be wise to tap the nation's petroleum reserve in the face of rising gasoline prices.
The nation's Strategic Petroleum Reserve, created at the time of the 1973 oil embargo, is for emergency situations when the supply of oil to the U.S. is disrupted. For the most part, the supply of oil to the U.S. has been pretty consistent. Prices may be higher than we want to pay but the long lines at the gas pumps that drivers of the 1970s experienced have been avoided.
Bush, Kerry and most serious policy-makers realize it would be foolish to try to mess with the oil marketplace by making our strategic reserves available for purchase. In truth, just like the rising cost of housing, health care and food, the government does not have the power to turn around basic economic forces. Gas prices will rise no matter which party is in power.
Tapping the reserve would offer only a temporary respite from escalating prices. At best, it would temporarily save U.S. motorists a few pennies a gallon.
Kerry, while deploring the high gas prices and criticizing Bush on several fronts, stopped short of calling for the strategic reserves to be tapped.
Bush said it well when he explained why he won't allow the reserves to be used.
"That petroleum reserve is in place in case of major disruptions of energy supplies to the United States," Bush said. "The idea of emptying the Strategic Petroleum Reserves would put America in a dangerous position in the war on terror."
Any members of Congress who call for the Strategic Petroleum Reserves to be used to lower prices should look first at what that body could have done to forestall the problem of inflated gas prices. Congress failed to reach accord on an energy bill that could potentially make the United States less dependent on foreign oil. That should be the first order of business before politicians start advocating extreme actions such as tapping petroleum reserves that are meant for true emergencies.
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