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What was the president thinking?

By Bertram de Souza (Contact)

Published March 18, 2012

Untitled document

President Obama used his Saturday radio address to urge Congress to kill tax breaks for the oil and gas industry and help develop alternative sources of energy. As he spoke, Americans around the country were at gas stations suffering from sticker shock. Indeed, on Friday, gasoline prices climbed above $5 a gallon in downtown Los Angeles.

Talk about a disconnection between the White House and Main Street America. People whose wallets are being emptied at the pump don’t want to hear some esoteric discussion about the $4 billion in tax subsidies for the oil and gas industry and the benefits of alternative sources of energy. They just want gas prices to come down — today.

Obama should have listened to Congressman Tim Ryan of Niles, D-17th, who on Friday said that opening the Strategic Petroleum Reserve should be part of the president’s “all of the above” energy policy. Such a release of petroleum will reduce speculation, increase the amount of oil on the market and reduce prices at the pump.

As of February, there were 695.9 million barrels of oil maintained by the U.S. Department of Energy. The total value of the crude is $64.5 billion.

According to the energy department, the Strategic Petroleum Reserve exists as an emergency response tool the president can use should the United States be confronted with an economically threatening disruption in oil supplies.

What’s going on today in the United States certainly meets the definition of “economically threatening disruption in oil supplies.” Whatever the reason for the shortages, the crisis in Iran or the growing demand in China, Russia and India, the fact remains that the fragile economic recovery in America is in jeopardy.

President Obama needs to announce that he will not hesitate to release oil from the reserve if prices don’t start coming down by the vacation-driving season. His re-election in November largely depends on whether the voters believe he has done enough to satisfy their addiction to oil.

What was the president thinking Saturday when he talked about alternative sources of energy? Obviously not what the American people are thinking today.

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