Consumer Watchdog Renews Call for Bush to Stop Buying Oil for U.S. Reserve, Release Oil to Dampen Price
Santa Monica, CA — As oil prices topped $115 a barrel today on futures markets, President Bush continued his near-silence on the damage that energy inflation is doing to consumers and the economy, said Consumer Watchdog. The White House clings to a pallid strategy of blaming OPEC even as it continues buying oil off the market at a rate of 1.5 million barrels a month for a Strategic Petroleum Reserve that is already filled to near-record levels.
“In 2006, President Bush dramatically announced that he would stop taxpayer-paid purchases for the petroleum reserve in order to help bring down prices,” said Judy Dugan, research director of Consumer Watchdog. “Now, in a much more urgent situation, he has not taken even this symbolic step to show seriousness in the face of serious economic damage from energy prices.”
(See news report of the 2006 announcement here.)
Consumer Watchdog (formerly the Foundation for Taxpayer and Consumer Rights) recently asked President Bush to cease purchases for the reserve, and also to begin releasing oil from the 700-million barrel store to show his administration’s determination to quell volatility and speculation in oil on futures markets. (See more on Enron Loophole and farm bill amendment here.) With the farm bill stalled, the Senate measure should be passed separately and sent quickly to the White House.
• Regulatory increase of the amount of margin funds that buyers must put up in energy trades to help suppress speculation by traders who will never take possession of a barrel of oil.
• Senate approval of a measure to withdraw $1.8 billion a year in unjustified taxpayer subsidies to oil companies and use the funds for development of job-creating green energy businesses. This measure, passed by the House, has not been taken up in the Senate, where opponents are using a filibuster tactic to require 60 votes for passage. A similar House measure was removed from the federal energy bill by the Senate last year under pressure from the oil lobby.
• Oversight of refinery operations, including regulation of national gasoline supplies. In the last decade, the average on-hand supply of gasoline has dropped from 30 days’ worth to about 22 days. This makes prices increasingly sensitive to any cuts in gasoline production.
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