Dear President Obama:
I am writing to urge you to prepare to take steps now in the event that the ongoing conflict in Iraq causes major disruptions in U.S. oil supply. I disagree with your recent actions to extend our military commitment to Iraq, and I am concerned that further involvement there embroils us once more in defending the energy security of an unstable country.
The current situation in Iraq has driven crude oil prices to their highest levels in nearly a year, which has also increased gas prices for consumers in many parts of the country. The uncertainty about future supply poses a threat to America's continued economic recovery and could erode the economic benefits of increased domestic oil production and efficiency gains in motor vehicles.
Among the steps I implore you to take is being prepared to release oil from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve (SPR) should the situation in Iraq deteriorate further. Releasing oil from the SPR is a near-term tool that Congress created in order to stabilize our economy and reduce threats to our national security from disruptions in global oil supply. It should be used sparingly and is not a permanent solution, but it is an important tool.
In addition to being prepared to release oil from the SPR, more must be done to harness increased oil production in places like the Bakken Region.
The Bakken formation recently produced its one billionth barrel of crude oil. That means 1 billion barrels of oil did not come from places like Iraq, Iran and Russia. It also means hundreds of millions of dollars have been invested in local economies to support good paying jobs in the U.S. instead of being sent abroad. Continued support for domestic advanced biofuels is also important to reducing our exposure to unstable oil prices.
In addition, I am concerned about the Department of Commerce's decision this week to reclassify lease condensate as a petroleum product, allowing the export of this commodity despite the crude export ban. The export ban was enacted by Congress under a different domestic energy situation than exists today, and U.S. refineries struggle to process lease condensate. Nevertheless, any adjustments to the export ban may re-expose the U.S. to unstable markets and should be considered extremely cautiously and by Congress.
Finally, approval of the Keystone XL Pipeline, with its significant on-ramp for American oil from the Bakken, can make us more energy secure and prosperous while insulating our economy from price shocks caused by foreign conflicts. The current conflict in Iraq drives home the importance of approving the pipeline.
I urge you to prepare to take the necessary steps to protect our economy, national security, and Montana consumers now and in the future.