The US consumes more than 20,000,000 barrels of oil a day. So what would halting the “stockpile” of 70,000 barrels a day that go in to the Strategic Petroleum Reserve do? Not much. 70,000 is a mere 0.35% of our total daily consumption.
However, in more election year posturing and pandering, the Senate has voted voted 97-1 to stop filling our national oil reserves for the rest of the year. A similar bill was voted on by the House and cleared 385-25. The move is symbolic and might have a psychological impact on oil prices, but it is unlikely to meaningfully change the balance of supply/demand.
The President would not (and could not) block the bill, but the administration said it is unlikely that this bill would “affect the price of oil or gasoline in a meaningful way.” Since President Bush isn’t running for re-election and has nothing left to lose in terms of his approval rating, he spoke freely: “The truth of the matter is that in order for there to be a substantial change either consumers have to change their habits — which we’re encouraging through alternative tax of automobiles — or there has to be an increase of supply.”
Since Bush has yet to have luck convincing his Saudi friends to increase oil production, does this mean he finally realises the need for true changes in lifestyle or alternative energy sources? Unlikely. But in any event, it doesn’t matter. Investment in alternatives a decade ago could have led to a rosier economic outlook today, but instead we’re still looking at the potential of $200 oil and more record profits for Exxon Mobil (XOM).