Sen. David Vitter of Louisiana says Americans are right to complain that the United States is often pulled into situations in the Middle East because of our reliance on foreign oil, and says the one thing the country should do to prevent this is to “wean” itself off foreign oil and develop more energy here at home.
Vitter told LIGNET senior analyst Jack Caravelli that it’s not too late for the Keystone pipeline. “We’re trying to get the whole project back on track,” he said, blaming election-year politics for the president’s denial of permits to TransCanada, the Canadian company that wanted to build the pipeline from Canada all the way to the Gulf of Mexico, bisecting the United States. The company, he points out, has said it will move forward with the southern part of the pipeline.
“Eventually, and hopefully much sooner rather than later, we need to permit the entire project,” said Vitter. “It’s great jobs — 20,000 American jobs; it’s great investment — 7 billion dollars of investment; and it’s a lot of reliable energy — 700,000 barrels of oil per day. Might not be domestic, but it’s the second best — from a very nearby, reliable ally in Canada.”
Vitter’s home state of Louisiana is the third largest producer of petroleum in the United States, with 138 oil rigs, many of them offshore in the Gulf of Mexico.
Vitter said he’s concerned about the recent release of oil from the nation’s Strategic Petroleum Reserve, which was set up by Congress in 1975 in response to the Arab oil embargo.
“If you remember, said Vitter, "that was a very dramatic action and it disrupted our oil supplies and it caused a debate and a discussion about, well we should be more prepared for emergencies affecting oil supplies of that kind. So it’s a reserve, and we store oil in case of a true emergency — some sort of national security, or maybe natural disaster, emergency.”
Vitter says he disagreed with President Obama’s decision to release oil from that reserve last year, and opposes the president's plan to release more this year to help control the price of gas.
“The danger is, we’re lessening our reserve, we’re lessening our insurance policy, if you will, for a true emergency,” said Vitter. “And Lord knows there’s a very real possibility that that would happen, over Iran or something else in the next year…we don’t have that real emergency — at least not yet.”
As of February 24, there were 696 million barrels of oil in the Strategic Petroleum Reserve. Before the Obama administration’s release of 30 million barrels last summer, the reserve held 727 million barrels.