Tags: Verleger | strategic petroleum reserve | oil | SPR

Energy Economist Verleger: US Should Dump Strategic Petroleum Reserve

By Dan Weil   |   Friday, 03 May 2013 10:24 AM

With the country now awash in energy, the United States should sell the contents of its Strategic Petroleum Reserve (SPR) and use the proceeds to reduce the budget deficit, says oil economist Phil Verleger, a visiting fellow at the Institute for International Economics.

The SPR began in 1973, formed in response to the oil crisis then and has been held as a cushion against another crisis. When oil prices rise, there are frequently calls to disburse some of the oil.

Now with oil and gas production surging in the wake of the shale revolution, Verleger urges getting rid of the whole thing.

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"It's an asset, and in this time of budget stringency, it's an asset that ought to be sold off," he told CNBC. "We don't need [the SPR] anymore."

Verleger figures the entire contents of the SPR would bring in more than $65 billion.

To be sure, critics of his idea point out that sum is a drop in the bucket as compared with the total size of the budget deficit. A $65 billion haul represents 8 percent of the Congressional Budget Office's $845 billion estimate for this fiscal year's deficit.

"There's roughly just under 700 million barrels of oil in the SPR. From that perspective, how much are you really going to make a dent in things in terms of the overall security it provides?" Christian O'Neill, an energy analyst at Bloomberg Industries, asked.

Verleger does have some company. Oil legend T. Boone Pickens told Bloomberg the United States could sell more than half of the SPR, thereby reducing gasoline prices without harming our energy security.

“Do we really need the SPR?” Pickens asked rhetorically.

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