The Oil Drum: New York City

Helping New Yorkers understand, prepare and adapt to the implications of Peak Oil

Thursday, August 04, 2005

Open Letter to Senator Schumer

Ianqui from The Oil Drum asked me to post this letter that she is sending to US Senator Chuck Schumer. You will see lots of politicians pandering to their gas-guzzling constituency as oil prices climb. What we need to do is show them that these quick fixes are really just like giving an addict one last cheap hit before prices go sky-high.


Dear Senator Schumer,
I am a Manhattan resident who proudly voted for you in the 2004 election. Overall, I have been pleased with your efforts in the Senate, and I commend you for your service. Today I am writing in regard to your amendment S.AMDT.805 to the recently passed energy bill H.R. 6. I realize that the amendment was ultimately tabled. However, I believe that your position is misguided, and I discourage you from pursuing such legislation in the future.

The amendment stated that opening the Strategic Petroleum Reserve (SPR) would allow the government to "circumvent the efforts of OPEC to reap windfall profits." However, available research suggests that current crude oil prices are not skyrocketing because OPEC is trying to make a profit, but rather because worldwide demand is increasing rapidly. As you know, the demand for oil in China grew by 15% in 2004 alone. The United States consumes approximately 26% of the world's energy resources, using over 20 million barrels a day, and our demand shows no sign of abating. In fact, prominent oil experts such as Matthew Simmons and T. Boone Pickens have argued that prices are not going to decrease any time soon. According to a recent CNN article (6/27/05): "Pickens said a shortage of oil is the main reason behind the price increase and didn't see how the world could produce more than the current 84 to 85 million barrels a day that currently comes out of the ground."

According to the Department of Energy, as of August 3, 2005, there were 283.3 million barrels of sweet crude and 414.9 million of sour crude in the SPR. Presumably, if the SPR were opened to decrease prices at the pumps, only the sweet crude would be tapped into for expediency. However, even if only 5 million barrels a day were released into the oil delivery system, the sweet crude reserve would last at most 10 weeks. This may lower gas prices for a brief period, but imagine how your constituents will feel when the relief is over and oil is back to $60+/barrel. Perhaps more importantly, if the SPR were depleted, it would have to be refilled. Certainly neither the government nor the taxpayers will be happy about refilling the reserves when oil is at $60, $70, even $80/barrel.

The SPR is an emergency reserve to be used only in times of extreme crisis, such as war or natural disaster. By depleting it simply to pander to your constituents, you would potentially leave the US vulnerable should we need petroleum in a time of emergency. In addition to the ever-present threat of a terrorist attack on oil pipelines in the US and Middle East, frequent hurricanes pose a serious danger to our oil infrastructure on the Gulf Coast. This kind of disruption of delivery would make prices much higher than the $2.45 that we're seeing at gas stations today, and the SPR should be left intact for such a situation.

If your goal is to lower energy costs for the American public, you would be better served by encouraging smart energy policy, such as improved CAFE standards and increased funding for alternative energy sources. I am pleased that you have introduced legislation on these issues in the past, and I hope that you will continue to be vocal about them in the future. Such measures would go a long way toward reducing overall US oil consumption. As your colleague Rep. Roscoe Bartlett (R-MD) has demonstrated to the Congress, the rate of depletion of known oil fields is increasing faster than new sources of oil are being found. The United States would benefit from conservation measures that will help ease our dependence on oil. Surely we will thank you when oil prices reach $100/barrel, which many experts believe could happen even before your Senate term is up.

Ianqui Doodle


Please take a moment to share your thoughts (or share some of Ianqui's thoughts mixed with your own) on the subject with Sen. Schumer at that link or a Senator in your local state. You can contact information for other Senators at

Thanks to Ianqui for working on local issues with us and we completely understand the little bit of sucking up in the first two paragraphs.

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At 10:27 AM, Blogger Public Takeover said...

Great post. Thanks. OK. I'll write to Chuck.

WTF?!#@* We should be slamming the brakes on consumption, not lowering the price. If demand fell, price would, too. What about the "market forces," the ---cons are always referring to?

It's bicycles, publicly owned mass transit, conservation incentives and falling demand leading to conversion to alternative, renewable sources that we need our legislators to propose, right?

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