Clinton Fends Off Oil Reserve Criticism

A vendor arranges marigold garlands at his wayside shop in Gauhati, India, Friday, Dec. 15, 2006. Hindus buy these garlands to decorate the idols of gods and goddesses.
AP Photo/Anupam Nath
President Clinton, deflecting criticism that his decision to tap the Strategic Petroleum Reserve was politically motivated, said Wednesday he acted because it was "the most prudent thing to do."

"We had a very long and serious discussion about this," Clinton told reporters gathered in the White House Rose Garden. "We discussed all the pros and cons."

Republican senators are accusing Clinton of tapping the oil reserve to help Vice President Al Gore's presidential bid. Sen. Don Nickles, R-Okla., speaking Tuesday, said: "The emergency oil is for a severe shortage and not to help a candidate seven weeks before the election."

About the Strategic Petroleum Reserve
By President Ford on December 22, 1975 when he signed the Energy Policy and Conservation Act
There are storage areas at Baton Rouge and Lake Charles, La. and Beaumont and Freeport, Texas.
Has enough oil to service America's economy for 59 days. At one point in 1985, it could cover 118 days.
Law dictates the oil would be released through competitive sale. The reserve could sell a maximum of 4.1 million gallons a day.
Oil released from the reserve would take 15 days to reach consumers.
21 million barrels in August 1990 and January 1991
(Source: DOE)
Clinton said that in weeks of discussions, one of several options under consideration was doing nothing.

But he said he concluded that "the most prudent thing to do is what we did."

Clinton said he took the advice of Energy Secretary Bill Richardson and energy experts, "including the vice president," when he decided Friday to draw 30 million barrels of oil from the government reserve in the face of continued high prices dictated by policies established by the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries.

Clinton and Richardson had said previously that the release of oil from the strategic reserve was intended to cushion a sudden supply shortfall this winter.

Richardson said the government oil drawdown will ease a 40 percent shortfall in heating oil inventories in the eastern part of the country and "make sure American families keep warm this winter."

The temporary infusin of oil, beginning in November, is expected to put 4 million to 5 million additional barrels of heating oil into the market, Richardson said Tuesday. He disputed contentions by some senators that refineries, now operating at near peak capacity, wouldn't be able to handle the oil.

About 1 million barrels of heating oil are used daily during the winter, with two-thirds of it used in the Mid-Atlantic and Northeast states, according to the Energy Department.