As oil prices continue to set records, and gas approaches the $4 a gallon mark, several lawmakers — including U.S. Rep. John Barrow — are asking President Bush to suspend adding to the nation’s strategic petroleum reserve.
“The president tries to pump oil into the strategic reserve. It’s 97 percent full,” Barrow said. “It’s taking 7 percent to 8 percent off the world’s flow and pumping it into the ground. It really, really drives the price of oil up.
“I sent a letter to the president six or seven weeks ago because the reserve is virtually full. There’s no reason we should do things to make oil more expensive than it is.”
But there are several factors for the price of oil shooting to new heights — from speculators to demand to the weak U.S. dollar. Barrow blames the Bush administration for allowing the dollar to soften and stay in a weakened state.
“The federal fiscal house is in such disarray because this administration and his enablers have run the federal government’s ox into a ditch,” he said, adding a lack of oversight and regulation on the financial markets has led to the crisis.
“Pulling all the cops off the beat has led to the dollar weakening,” he said.
Barrow backs the manufacture of ethanol, but he insists the U.S. get away from corn-based ethanol.
“We have to get us off the misguided use of using food,” he said.
Barrow pointed to the ethanol production facility being built in Soperton that will turn wood and wood waste into as much as 100 million gallons of ethanol. He also backed more production of domestic oil sources and reducing the nation’s reliance on foreign oil.
“We’ve got to expand domestic drilling where it makes sense,” he said, “and use offshore drilling that respects the rights of the states and we have to increase our refinery capacity.
“But there’s no future in that,” Barrow warned. “The long-term solution is getting away from oil and into sources we can manufacture. We need to invest in clean alternatives and stop doing things to make oil more expensive than it should be. We’ve got to develop new sources of energy. The sooner we start, the sooner we finish.”