Republican opposition to diversion of oil mounting

| 4/24/2008

The number of Republicans calling for a stop to the diversion of oil to the Strategic Petroleum Reserve continues to grow.

Eight Republican members of the House of Representatives joined Sen. John McCain, R-AZ, and Sen. Susan Collins, R-ME, who have previously called for a halt to SPR contributions.

Lawmakers breaking ranks from the Bush administration’s policy of continuing to stockpile oil in the SPR include Reps. Michael N. Castle, R-DE; Ray LaHood, R-IL; Roscoe G. Bartlett, R-MD; Wayne T. Gilchrest, R-MD; Todd Russell Platts, R-PA; Vernon J. Ehlers, R-MI; Jim Gerlach, R-PA; Christopher Shays, R-CT; and Timothy V. Johnson, R-IL.

The lawmakers sent a letter to Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi encouraging her to support legislation that would temporarily suspend oil diversion to the stockpile.

“To lessen world-wide demand for oil and reduce $100 a barrel oil prices, we should consider suspending petroleum acquisition for the Strategic Petroleum Reserve and boost efforts to increase refinery capability,” the letter to Pelosi stated.

While the importance of the SPR was acknowledged, the eight representatives pointed out that the stockpile is filled to 96 percent of its capacity.

“However, a temporary acquisition suspension could prove useful in addressing prices that have increased over 50 cents in many communities across the nation in just the last year,” the letter states.

The letter also points out that refinery capacity in the United States has not increased in 30 years and that an expansion of capacity by streamlining the process for expanding current facilities or even building new ones could speed the supply of fuel into the market.

However, calls for the suspension of the federal fuel tax –a fuel tax “holiday” – were challenged in the letter.

“While this tax moratorium may have appeal, we urge you to protect funding for the Highway Trust Fund and critical infrastructure upgrades,” the letter states.

The letter also advocated requiring transparency in business transactions with oil-exporting countries to get a better handle on the actual supplies on hand; encouraging consumers to implement fuel saving habits such as driving slower; and looking at tax incentives to encourage the development of alternative renewable fuels.