Since then, I’ve heard from a few other oil watchers, who offered some other interesting ideas about what might be behind the move. All seem to agree that the decision by both the Obama administration and the 27 other countries in the International Energy Agency is politically motivated.
Jeffrey Brown, an independent petroleum geologist in Fort Worth who writes frequently on peak oil issues and who is particularly interested in the issue of Saudi Arabia’s production, wonders if the coordinated releases are essentially a no confidence vote against the kingdom. By releasing oil from their stockpiles, the IEA essentially gives Saudi Arabia some cover, enabling the kingdom to say it doesn’t need to increase production.
“If Saudi Arabia can’t materially increase their exports of oil, especially light/sweet oil, then the release of emergency supplies would be a very convenient fig leaf for them,” Brown said in a recent email.
Meanwhile, William Arnold, a professor of energy management at Rice University, suggested that the release might be aimed at driving some of the speculators from the market, while at the same time setting the stage for some nice election-year political theater.
Arnold noted that gasoline prices tend to rise faster as crude prices increase than they decline when crude prices fall. With all the news of the SPR release, motorists will be expecting lower pump prices, and they’ll be disappointed when they don’t get them. That will enable members of Congress to engage in a little disingenuous outrage and once again haul oil executive to Washington for around of hearings in the fall, just as the campaign season gets underway.
Or it could be a combination of all these factors. One thing’s clear, though, the SPR has become a political weapon rather than a defensive tool for the nation’s energy security.