3. The Strategic Petroleum Reserve. Once upon a time when Congress gave the executive branch the authority to tap the Strategic Petroleum Reserve, it was intended for supply emergencies like those caused by natural disasters or geopolitical unrest. Yet during your administration, the premise for an SPR release seems to be inching its way to a more liberal philosophy, where to "catch the oil speculators with their pants down" and to keep a lid on prices at the pump so Americans don't revolt and the economic recovery doesn't stumble too much, the SPR becomes more like a petroleum-based form of quantitative easing. After all,, using the conflict in Libya and supply disruption as a premise for an SPR release was tenuous, at best, given the global supply of oil in relation to Libya's production.
I'm not saying that the SPR must be reserved for "emergencies" only. However, while the Federal Reserve has become much more transparent about communicating with the public over its monetary policy, the SPR remains a black box beholden to the unspoken wishes and political maneuverings of the White House. I understand there is a strategic advantage in the world not knowing what's on tap from the SPR. However, that's the same case with the Fed and it still communicates, even if only in dribbles and drops of information.
As the SPR has more constant headline presence -- I'm sort of tired of all the people who know an SPR release is "imminent" before they know it's "off the table" -- and the U.S. continues to increase its domestic oil production, I think Americans deserve at least some form of regular SPR communication, a mechanism for conveying the federal government's current view of the oil markets, economy and likelihood of an SPR release, like we now get from the Federal Reserve. Even if everyone isn't happy with the Fed approach to easing and to communication, it's something.
Mr. President, will you make the SPR process more transparent and how so?4. Your "war" on "Warren's" coal. Mr. President, I think it's safe to assume that if your secretary fields a call from Berkshire Hathaway (BRK.B) CEO Warren Buffett, he will be put through. In fact, he's been one of your biggest backers and your go-to capitalist on tax strategy. He is also -- courtesy of his purchase of railroad Burlington Northern -- involved in ambitious plans to ship more and more coal from western U.S. reserves to Asia. In fact, coal analysts often make the case that Buffett's bet on the railroads was a bet on exporting coal to meet Asian demand. The Republicans like to say you are waging war on the coal industry through your environmental policy, but it's East Coast thermal coal that has really suffered recently, for one thing, and it's been out of favor right now primarily because of low natural gas prices making thermal coal uneconomic for utilities. I don't believe it's EPA regulations that have crushed the coal industry -- at least not yet -- but I have to remind you that global warming knows no national boundaries. Mr. President, if you are interested in limiting emissions from coal-fired power plants as part of global warming policy, how does allowing Warren Buffett to export coal to Asia help matters? 5. The pampered American Gasoline prices are a sensitive issue for Americans, a serious issue for consumers, and a real weight on the U.S. economy. However, look at gasoline prices around the world -- outside of state-subsidized oil-rich regimes -- and Americans can't complain. A strong case can be made that the world economy depends on Americans getting their "cheap" gas -- why do you think the Saudi oil minister steps up with some comforting words about making more supply available, or about there being no rational basis for high oil prices based on supply and demand -- every time there is a bit of panic about rising prices at the pump. Yet compared to European countries where gas can be as high as $8 a gallon, we've got it good. Your higher fuel-efficiency standards for cars is a logical enough step, and the search for more domestic oil is about improving the U.S. economy, creating jobs and providing the oil and gas industry with a way to maximize monetization of domestic natural resources, but doesn't necessarily imply that gas prices will get much cheaper for the average American. When will you be ready to tell Americans that on a relative global gasoline price chart, $4 gas represents a "gift"? To see 5 energy policy questions Mitt Romney should answer, click here. To join TheStreet's live blog of the presidential debate starting at 8:30 p.m. ET with political reporter Joe Deaux, click here. -- Written by Eric Rosenbaum from New York. >To contact the writer of this article, click here: Eric Rosenbaum. >To follow the writer on Twitter, go to Eric Rosenbaum. Follow TheStreet on Twitter and become a fan on Facebook.
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