Obama’s Oil Release Dismays Alaska’s Congressional Delegation

Alaska’s Congressional Delegation is unilaterally dismayed at President Obama’s decision Thursday to tap into the nation’s emergency oil reserves.  The White House announced this morning that it’s responding to tightness in the oil markets by releasing 30 million barrels of crude.  The U.S. Strategic Petroleum Reserve is located in salt caverns off the coasts of Texas and Louisiana, and is accessed only sparingly.

Alaska’s Congressman and Senators say despite the recent higher prices at the gas pump, it’s not time to use the emergency oil:

Representative Young: “Dumbest thing I’ve ever heard in my life. This is so anti-American independence, anti-American that I’ve ever seen.”

Senator Murkowski: “I do think this is misguided, I think this is obviously transparent in terms of its political nature. I think that that is quite disturbing.”

Senator Begich: “I don’t know who gave them the advice; I wouldn’t have given him the advice. This is not a good idea ‘cause it’s just short term.”

Despite the fact that Begich sits on the same Democratic side of the aisle as the White House, he’s pushing to drill more oil wells in Alaska rather than using up the saved supply.

“I mean Alaska is in my view America’s strategic oil reserve, and that’s what we should be working on. These little band aids where they just say we’re going to sell-off 30 million barrels of oil, that’s not going to do it. That’s just a moment in time. Two months from now we’ll have discussion and we won’t know what happened to price at the pump because it won’t have an impact.”

On Thursday, a senior White House official said the Obama team is not making predictions about whether gas prices will go down from their action. Oil prices did plunge Thursday when the news broke.

But Murkowski and Young agree with Begich that opening up the reserves won’t likely save money at the gas pump.  In fact Murkowski says the timing is off.

“The high prices that we saw six to eight weeks ago are no longer so high. We’re seeing the price of oil go down, the price at the pump go down, the only thing that is going up are the unemployment numbers. The misery index if you will. And I think that is what the president has responded to and is trying to deflect from the current economic just fall out.”

The White House says it’s been working for weeks on the plan to open up the reserves and is doing so in consultation with major oil producing countries, which have committed to boosting production. Europe will also tap 30 million of its reserve barrels.

Congressman Young says the White House should instead speed up on its plan to open up the National Petroleum Reserve Alaska, or NPR-A, to drilling, and blow through the delayed permitting process.

“If I was the president, I’d declare a national emergency for energy policy and get drilling. No more lawsuits, no more delaying, no more bureaucracy delays.”

The White House says relying on the nation’s oil reserves is necessary because of the restricted supply of light, sweet crude coming from Libya, especially in anticipation of the heavy summer driving season. The strategic oil reserves contain more than 700 million barrels of oil, and the Obama Administration plans to at this point to tap less than 5 percent of that.  This will be only the third, and the largest, sale of the strategic reserves since they were created after the Arab oil embargo of the 1970s.

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