On Energy, Obama Willing to Tap Oil Reserve, Quotes Pickens

by Robert Costa

Washington — As gas prices continue to rise, President Obama said today that he is willing to utilize the country’s strategic oil reserve. “Should the situation demand it, we are prepared to tap the significant stockpile that we have in the strategic petroleum reserve,” he told reporters at a White House press conference. “If we see significant disruptions or shifts in the market that are so disconcerting to people that we think a strategic petroleum release would be appropriate, then we will take that step.”

“We are confident about our ability to fill any potential gaps in supply,” Obama said. “Obviously, we have it teed up, so this isn’t a situation where there’s a big bureaucracy and it would take us several months to implement.” He noted that the Justice Department will closely monitor gas prices in coming weeks in order to prevent “any manipulation in the oil markets.”

Looking ahead, the president said that Congress needs to “get moving on a comprehensive energy strategy that pursues both more energy production and more energy conservation.” He also defended his administration’s record on this front. “Any notion that my administration has shut down oil production might make for a good political sound bite, but it does not match up with reality,” he said. Domestic oil production, he added, continued to rise in 2010. “We are encouraging offshore exploration and production. We are just doing it responsibly.”

Obama cited billionaire T. Boone Pickens, a well-known energy executive and financier, as someone who echoes the administration’s approach. “T. Boone Pickens, who made his fortune in the oil business — and I don’t think anybody would consider him unfriendly to drilling — was right when he said that this is one emergency we can’t drill our way out of,” he said. “We can’t place our long-term bets on a finite resource that we only control 2 percent of, especially a resource that’s vulnerable to hurricanes, war, and political turmoil. Beyond increased domestic production, if we want to secure our long-term prosperity and protect the American people from more severe oil shocks in the future, the way to do it is to gradually reduce demand and then do everything we can to break our dependence on oil.”