Robbing Peter to Pay Paul: Congress Gambles With US Energy Security
Currently, legislation is headed to the US Senate after the House of Representatives voted to sell off substantial portions of the nation’s Strategic Oil Reserves in order to finance a variety of national projects; chief among them a Highway Transportation Bill and an overhaul to the drug screening process used by the Food and Drug Administration.
Hedging their bets on the current uptick in domestic oil production and the impossibility of some unforeseen calamitous event that might interrupt the global supply chain and throw the economy into chaos, (like the very event that caused the creation of the strategic oil reserve in the first place), Congressional Republicans (and some Democrats) see the nation’s energy backup plan as an irresistible asset to sell off and make some scratch.
Never mind that the plan is based around a sales point of approximately $90 per barrel when the current market price is $50 per barrel and that, try as we all might, there is no predicting the future. The Syrian Civil War, Western sanctions against Russia’s increasing military belligerence, and the domestic politics of Venezuela in the Post-Hugo Chavez era are among an innumerable list of factors that conspire to determine the cost of oil on a moment to moment basis that, for some perplexing reason, seemingly held no governance in the crafting of the aforementioned legislation.
The proposed sell-off has been heavily derided by a number of scholars, economists, and politicians. Senator Lisa Murkowksi (R-Alaska), head of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, has become perhaps the most outspoken critic, stating:
“Any potential revenue raised through the ‘rightsizing’ of the [Strategic Petroleum Reserve] should be used to improve our nation’s energy security….Ensuring the operational effectiveness of the reserve should be our first priority.”
In deed. Originally constructed in the mid-1970’s, the 40-year old infrastructure used to house and transport the nation’s emergency supply of petroleum is due for a much needed upgrade.
One might think that finding other, more practical (raising taxes on the wealthiest 10% of Americans, closing tax loop holes employed by corporations, cutting military spending now that we’re not engaged in two ground wars) means of procuring revenue to fund the absolutely vital repairs required of the nation’s crumbling transportation infrastructure or the FDA or really any project other than gambling with the nation’s energy security might be cause for bi-partisan resourcefulness.
If you do, I’ve got a bridge on the verge of collapsing that I’d like to sell you.