House Dems Applaud Obama for Tapping Strategic Petroleum Reserve, Boehner Says Move Threatens National Security

By John R Parkinson

Jun 23, 2011 6:25pm

ABC News’ John R. Parkinson (@JRPabcDC) reports:

As the White House announced today that it will release 30 million barrels of oil from the nation’s strategic petroleum reserve, House Democrats applauded the president’s decision as one that will bring down the price of gasoline, while nation’s top Republican said the move “threatens our ability to respond to a genuine national security crisis” and puts a new burden on the American taxpayer to refill the reserve.

“I am pleased that the Obama administration has answered our call today by making an historic announcement,” Rep. Edward Markey, D-Mass., said. “The Strategic Petroleum Reserve is the one tool that we have that can actually provide relief to consumers at the pump this summer driving season, the Strategic Petroleum Reserve is the one weapon we have against OPEC, and it has a proven record of historically driving down prices.”

House Speaker John Boehner says that by tapping the SPR, “the president is using a national security instrument to address his domestic political problems.”

“The SPR was created to mitigate sudden supply disruptions,” Boehner, R-Ohio, said in a statement Thursday afternoon. “This action threatens our ability to respond to a genuine national security crisis and means we must ultimately find the resources to replenish the reserve – at significant cost to taxpayers.”

But the President was praised by House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi at her news conference Thursday morning.

“I must congratulate the president for putting — releasing 30 billion [sic] — 30 billion [sic] barrels, which is part of the 60 billion [sic] barrel release of oil which, I believe, will immediately bring down the price at the pump, which is of concern to America's working families,” Pelosi, D-Calif., said. “This has been part of our energy bill that is part of our ‘Make it in America’ proposal, so we're very pleased that the president's taken this action.”

Rep. Peter Welch, D-Vermont, said high gas prices are “hammering families and hammering small businesses” but Obama’s move would provide relief when it’s needed most.

“What the president's decision does is send a shot across the bow to these speculators, letting them know, finally, that the United States government is on the side of the American people, that we're going to be with them, not with the speculators,” Welch said.  “This is a very welcome announcement. We all know it's short- term, but you know what, we need short-term action to provide some immediate relief for our families and businesses that are getting so hammered by these artificially inflated gas and home-heating-fuel prices.”

Rep. Rush Holt, D-New Jersey, agreed, telling reporters that the move provides American consumers relief in the short-term.

“A long-term solution depends on cracking down on the causes of high prices, cracking down on our dependence on this, but in the short term, we need a shock absorber and the Strategic Petroleum Reserve fills that role very well,” Holt said.  “We can't live on the Strategic Petroleum Reserve for months and months and months, but we certainly can use it as a shock absorber to prevent these enormous inflationary effects of spikes, of bubbles, of speculation.”

Markey, who is the top Democrat on the House Natural Resources committee, pointed to previous instances when the SPR was tapped and the price of oil fell, and attributed the lower trade of oil futures today to the president’s announcement.

 “The impact on oil prices from today's announcement is already being felt. The New York Mercantile Exchange oil futures are currently trading down on oil by 5 percent, within several hours of this announcement. So obviously the SPRO does work,” Markey said. “SPR stands for Strategic Petroleum Reserve, but it also stands for "sudden price reduction" whenever it is used, because it drives speculators out of the marketplace for fear that they are going to lose money as they bet on inaction by the United States government. Now they know that things aren't going to get worse without a fight from the Obama administration.”

“Because of the reduction in the amount of oil coming in from Libya, because of the amount of oil that's now been taken off the market in Yemen, this is the right time to strike, to make a statement that we are not going to allow the markets to be disrupted — and not to say that that's a signal to Iran, to Venezuela and others that we are going to fight back, that they will not be able to exploit this opportunity to hold prices high,” he added.

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