May 13, 2008

Senate takes 'action' to lower gas prices. Yawn.

A barrel of crude oil now costs $124. A gallon of gasoline will set you back $4, or darn near that. (The price range around here right now is $3.82 - $4.05. Check HERE.) Why should you care that the Senate voted 97-1 to temporarily stop pumping crude oil into the underground caverns in Louisiana and Texas that serve as the nation's Strategic Petroleum Reserve?

Frankly, you shouldn't care.

Despite the high-fives senators (like our own Russ Feingold, see press release below) are giving themselves, this move will accomplish nothing. Releasing for sale the 70,000 barrels a day that would have gone underground won't make much difference to the nation's supply -- we use some 20 million barrels a day -- and therefore, despite what the bipartisan Senate vote would have you believe, won't make any appreciable difference in the price at the pump. None that you'll notice, anyway. (If the Gasoline Fairy waves her magic wand and transforms every bit of this frog into a price reduction, it will create a saving of less than two cents per gallon.)

Sorta like the federal gas tax "holiday" pushed by Sens. Hillary Clinton and John McCain, and our own Rep. Paul Ryan. Eighteen-point-four cents per gallon. Mama, let's drive to California!

The vote is an example of economic naivete: It suspends pumping into the 700 million barrel strategic reserve until the price of oil falls below $75 a barrel. So, it's likely not to be very temporary at all. Hell may freeze over first... assuming the House goes along, and President Bush doesn't veto it, as he's threatened to do. (The one senator who voted with the White House in this election year was Sen. Wayne Allard, R-CO, who's not running for re-election.)

Anyway, now that you know the facts, here's Feingold's take:

By Suspending Deposits into the Nearly-Full Strategic Petroleum Reserve, More Oil Will Be Available in the Marketplace to Help Bring Down Gas Prices

Washington, D.C. – The U.S. Senate passed a measure co-sponsored by U.S. Senator Russ Feingold (D-WI) that will help lower gas prices that have reached all-time highs. The Senate passed a Feingold-backed initiative to suspend the filling of the strategic petroleum reserve (SPR) that was originally created to provide relief when oil and gasoline supply shortages caused economic hardships. While the average price of gas approaches four dollars per gallon in Wisconsin and across the country, the administration continues to divert oil into the SPR, pitting the government against the American consumer by taking more oil off the market and driving up the price of gas.

“I am pleased the Senate has taken a common-sense step toward easing the burden Americans are feeling at the gas pump by making more oil available in the marketplace,” Feingold said. “This move is not a cure-all but it should provide some relief without jeopardizing our oil reserves.”

The Senate also blocked an effort that would have endangered the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge by allowing drilling in the pristine Alaskan wilderness. Feingold has been a Senate leader in opposing drilling in the Refuge and has led efforts in the Senate to prevent it. To help protect the Refuge, Feingold is a cosponsor of a bill that would designate the Refuge’s coastal plain as a federal wilderness area.

“Drilling in the Arctic Refuge would sacrifice one of America’s greatest natural treasures for a supply of oil that would not do anything to significantly enhance our energy security,” Feingold said. “The Senate has rejected efforts to drill in the Arctic Refuge time after time. It is time to move past this divisive debate and develop a new energy strategy that will protect our national security, economy, and environment.”


  1. No Russ you moron, it is well past time to drill for oil NO risk to the environment there.

  2. Well at least SOMEONE is trying to do SOMETHING to get us out of this death spiral. 5 years ago (on the day of Bush's "Mission Accomplished" speech debacle) oil was 22$/barrel. Now, the oil companies are reaping HUGE profits while the rest of us struggle to fill our tanks and heat our homes. And while you claim this effort will do "nothing," it's certainly a step in the right direction of holding oil conglomerates responsible for getting rich on the backs of regular Americans.

  3. Robert: I sympathize with your anger about the "death spiral" -- there's already been talk of $200/barrel crude and CNN suggested $7/gallon gas in a year -- but tell me how not feeding the SPR is "a step in the right direction of holding oil conglomerates responsible."

    I'm sorry, but I see the Senate's "action" as meaningless pandering to voters ("See what we did to lower prices.") that at best could have less than two cents' impact. I'd love to learn that I'm wrong, and cheaper gas is coming...