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Two Truths and a Lie About the US Strategic Petroleum Reserve

I am struggling to make sense of the world today, as many people are. So many things seem upside down that it’s hard to tell the truth from lies, reality from fiction. If you’ve ever played the game “two truths and a lie” you know that it can sometimes be hard to tell the difference between a good lie and the truth.

I’m not very good at it but to give you a sense for the game, here’s an example.

  1. My favorite color is blue. 
  2. I play the guitar, though badly. 
  3. I gave a speech to a king. 

One look at my wardrobe and you’ll see that the blue statement is truth. Playing the guitar doesn’t seem far-fetched, and I do own one. But even playing badly assumes that I play, which I don’t. Lie. 

>>READ: America Needs Affordable, Diversified, Reliable Energy

Giving a speech to a king seems unlikely since there aren’t many kings these days. Yet I had the privilege of meeting and speaking before His Majesty Carl XVI Gustaf of Sweden in 2008 in New York City. I doubt it was as memorable for him, but I’ve always found it useful to get past the stage fright nerves by reminding myself that I once spoke to a king. Enough of that.

Now let’s try the game with President Biden’s energy policy as it relates to the Strategic Petroleum Reserve (SPR).

  1. Oil and gas are competitively priced commodities that trade on a global market
  2. A cartel of foreign dictators influence the price of oil by colluding on production targets. 
  3. The best way to lower gas prices at the pump is to deplete the US Strategic Petroleum Reserve.

While the market isn’t as free and open as it needs to become, it is true that oil and gas are competitively priced commodities. Truth. 

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Supply and demand dictate their price at any given time. It’s also true that a cartel of foreign dictators, namely OPEC or the Organization of Oil Exporting Countries (plus Russia), influence the price of oil and gas, not by setting the price but by curtailing the supply. Truth.

Depleting our nation’s strategic oil reserves will have little to no impact on lowering the price at the pump, and could make things worse since OPEC can just decrease production to further jack up the price of oil once again. So, the idea that depleting the SPR will fix high gas prices at the pump is a lie. 

The Strategic Petroleum Reserve was started in 1975 after the 1973–1974 oil embargos. The goal was to protect against severe supply disruptions. Makes sense. Have an oil “savings account” for when supplies get low so that our oil adversaries can’t have us over a barrel, as the saying goes. 

>>>READ: Countering OPEC+ Requires a Change in Posture and Policy

Protecting against significant oil supply disruptions was particularly important back when we had to rely on foreign supplies of oil. Today we don’t, thanks to natural gas fracking innovation. 

Innovation spearheaded by a wildcatter entrepreneur from Texas named George Mitchell with a little help from the US Department of Energy took America from a net energy importer to a net energy exporter. Thanks to George Mitchell, the United States became energy independent. 

This meant that the SPR truly became a strategic asset only reserved for worst-case scenario supply disruptions. That is, until President Joe Biden decided to make it a political asset just a few weeks before the midterm elections. This isn’t the first time politicians have tried to use the supposedly strategic asset for political purposes. Vice President Al Gore urged President Clinton to draw down SPR ahead of his presidential election.

Under President Biden’s energy policies, supply disruptions are not coming from our foreign adversaries as much as from his administration’s failed climate and energy policies. If you think that is too harsh, remember that one of the first things that Biden did when he took office was to cancel the Keystone XL pipeline. 

That pipeline may seem like a Republican talking point, but even President Obama’s Chief Economic Advisor and Treasury Secretary Larry Summers recently said that “it’s kind of insane that we have trucks and trains carrying oil all over this country rather than constructing pipelines.” Now there’s some truth.

So where do we go from here? It’s really pretty simple. 

President Biden needs to reverse course on his anti-American oil and gas policies and own up to the truth that the US produces energy in ways that are among the cleanest and most innovative in the world. 

We can’t save the planet if we can’t save ourselves first. Mr. President, please put on your oxygen mask before trying to help others. Once you do, perhaps then you’ll see more clearly and embrace the need to unleash American energy production.

The views and opinions expressed are those of the author’s and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of C3.

Copyright © 2020 Conservative Coalition for Climate Solutions

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