Wednesday, May 19, 2004
Dogs and cats, living together: Yes, it's one of the signs of the end of the world, according to the Ghostbusters. This is another: Hoystory wholeheartedly agreeing with an editorial in The New York Times.
Entitled, "Gasoline hysteria," the editorial makes the case that Democrat calls for tapping the Strategic Petroleum Reserve are misguided, deceitful and transparently political.
As the energy secretary, Spencer Abraham, correctly noted yesterday, "The reserve is not there to simply try to change prices." In fact, the law calls for it to be tapped only in the event of supply disruptions. And even if Washington wanted to alleviate rising fuel costs, the reserve is not a very effective instrument for doing so, as President Bill Clinton learned in the fall of 2000. Experts estimate that at most, turning on the spigot now would knock only a few cents off a gallon.
Senator John Kerry, the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee, knows this, of course, and he demeans the seriousness of his own candidacy when he suggests that President Bush could single-handedly bring down fuel costs. Senator Kerry has urged the administration to stop buying oil for the reserve, as if that would make a difference. Fortunately, some residue of shame has kept him from joining the other Democrats calling for the reserve to be raided. The government's oil purchases have taken place at a time of higher prices, but they are not a major cause of the increase.
On Fox News' "Special Report with Brit Hume" last night, a representative of the Cato Institute, who favored tapping the reserve, acknowledged that even opening that spigot would only cause prices to fall a maximum of 10 cents per gallon.
I'm not even convinced that more supply would have much of an effect here in California. California's major problem is a lack of refining capacity. When one of the state's few refineries shuts down -- for whatever suspicious reason -- gas prices take an immediate jump. When the refinery is back online, prices slowly begin to inch back down.
If you get the feeling I'm suggesting something is maybe a little shady in the Golden State -- you're right.
Get used to it. Or get on the waiting list for a Toyota Prius.