Author: Robert Bamberger,Robert L. Pirog
Publisher: Nova Publishers
Category: Political Science
To help prevent a repetition of the economic dislocation caused by the 1973-74 Arab oil embargo, Congress authorised the Strategic Petroleum Reserve (SPR) in the Energy Policy and Conservation Act (EPCA, P.L. 94-163). Physically, the SPR comprises five underground storage facilities, hollowed out from naturally occurring salt domes, located in Texas and Louisiana. Oil stored at one of the sites, Weeks Island, was transferred after problems with the structural integrity of the cavern were discovered in the mid-1990s. Hurricane Katrina made landfall early in the morning of August 29, 2005 inflicting severe damage and shutting down oil and gas production and refining activities in the Gulf of Mexico. Damage assessments continue. By September 2, three requests for loans totalling 8.5 million barrels had been approved; a few others are pending. The Administration also announced it was making 30 million barrels available. However, as a policy tool to respond to the crisis, the SPR has limitations because a barrel of crude contributes to product supply only if there is refining capacity to turn the crude into gasoline or diesel fuel. Consequently, recovery from the hurricanes effects will depend upon resumption of production and refining operations in the Gulf, and the ability to transport petroleum products. On August 8, 2005, the President signed the Energy Policy Act of 2005 (H.R. 6). The bill as enacted permanently authorises the SPR and requires, as expeditiously as practicable, expansion of the SPR to its authorised maximum of 1 billion barrels. The Secretary is required to develop procedures for achieving the fill objective without incurring excessive cost, or placing upward pressure on prices. Any fill policy is also to take into consideration minimising income foregone to the Treasury by filling the SPR with additional royalty-in-kind (RIK) oil.