Pelosi calls on Bush to open oil reserves

August 13, 2008 7:01:43 PM PDT
Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi recently pitched a plan to bring down gasoline prices by dipping into the Strategic Petroleum Reserve, showing a shift in Democrats' response to the energy crisis.

Sen. Barack Obama's long term energy plan involves investing $150 billion into clean energy development, putting one million plug-in hybrids on the road by 2015 and increasing renewable energy sources by 2012; but when a woman recently asked him about easing the burden of high prices at the pump right now, he told her to make sure her tires were properly inflated.

Even though experts have said properly inflated tires could save 800,000 barrels of oil a day, Sen. John McCain's campaign mocked the comment, passing out tire pressure gauges labeled "Obama's Energy Plan." They wanted to create the appearance that Obama could not do anything about bringing prices down now.

ABC7's political analyst Bruce Cain pointed out that the people most affected by high fuel prices are largely working-class voters, the people Obama needs if he is going to win in Nov.

"It's a political problem because we have a lot of people in this country who have built their lifestyle around cheap gas," Cain said.

The latest Democratic response calls on the Bush administration to open up the Strategic Petroleum Reserve. Pelosi said the nation's stockpile of oil in the Reserve is 700 million barrels and if the government put 10 percent of that on the market, it could add 200,000 barrels a day for one year and lower the price of oil within 10 days.

"This is the time for us to do it, to help the consumer, to increase the supply, to reduce our dependence on foreign oil," Pelosi said.

The director of the University of California's Energy Institute said releasing oil from the Reserve might have a temporary dampening effect on oil prices, but it is not sustainable.

"It's not what the Strategic Petroleum Reserve is for," Severin Borenstein said. "It's supposed to be there for a real disruption in supplies of oil. We don't have a disruption, we have a long-term supply problem."

Pelosi argues the oil release will bridge the gap until more long term solutions kick into effect.

"Well if you're in the middle class and if you're struggling to make ends meet and you have your purchasing power has gone down as prices of gas, fuel and all the rest go up, then it's an emergency," she said.

Releasing 70 billion barrels over the next 12 months could drive down the price of oil by 3 percent, and that could result in a 10 cent per gallon drop in the cost of gasoline, Borenstein said.

But Cain believes this is more about politics than anything else.

"Both parties know that in many ways this is a symbolic gesture," Cain said. "But to do nothing in the face of a crisis is always a political problem."

Related Link:
ABC7 EXTRA: House Speaker Nancy Pelosi on the oil crisis and other issues of the day


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