Locals react to Obama's oil plan
(By ABC7's Jennifer Donelan and the Associated Press)
Berhane Kahsay needs relief.
The Maryland driver has been getting hurt at the gas pump.
Wary of a new surge in gas prices, the Obama administration said Thursday it is selling off 30 million barrels of oil from the country's emergency reserves as part of a broader international response to lost oil supplies caused by turmoil in the Middle East and North Africa, particularly Libya.
The release from the U.S. Strategic Petroleum Reserve will be the largest ever, amounting to half of a 60 million-barrel international infusion of oil planned for the world market over the next month.
"I think it's crazy because as fast it goes up it doesn't come down half as fast as I would like it to," said local resident Aaron McCarley.
He says he wants to see the difference in dollars and not pennies.
“We'll see how it works four cents or six cents really isn't much of a difference for me," he said.
The move comes as retail gasoline prices dropped for the 20th consecutive day, down a penny from Wednesday, to $3.61 per gallon, according to the AAA Daily Fuel Gauge Report. That's about 21 cents lower than a month ago.
The timing brought criticism from business groups and Republican lawmakers, who accused President Barack Obama of playing politics with the country's oil reserves, which are intended to address emergencies.
"The Strategic Petroleum Reserve is an emergency lifeline to protect our nation against critical shortages in our oil supply and shouldn't be used as a Strategic Political Reserve to boost the popularity of elected officials," said Charles Drevna, president of the National Petrochemical & Refiners Association.
The administration's action will do little to benefit consumers while leaving the nation vulnerable to hurricanes or other natural disasters, or a foreign crisis that causes a real supply shortage, said House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio.
"By tapping the Strategic Petroleum Reserve, the president is using a national security instrument to address his domestic political problems," Boehner said. "This action threatens our ability to respond to a genuine national security crisis."
Even some Democrats were puzzled by the move.
"This decision would have been more timely if made when the disruption in Libyan oil supplies first occurred" in February, said Sen. Jeff Bingaman, D-N.M., chairman of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee. Still, Bingaman said he hopes the move helps deflate "speculative froth in the markets" and drives prices down.
The administration said the uprising in Libya has resulted in a loss of about 1.5 million barrels of oil a day. The International Energy Agency said roughly 132 million barrels of Libyan light, sweet crude had been removed from the world market as of May.