Durbin Looks to Oil Reserve to Combat Gas Prices

Posted March 13, 2011 at 10:49am

Updated: 11:56 a.m.

The nation needs to consider dipping into its Strategic Petroleum Reserve “to temper” an increase in gas prices, Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin said Sunday. 

“I’m worried that if we don’t use the reserve, that our economic recovery will stall and fall backwards,” the Illinois Democrat said on CNN’s “State of the Union.” “We don’t need to see unemployment figures going up, so that’s my concern. But secondly, let’s not overlook the obvious. We’re still too dependent on foreign oil.”

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell accused the Obama administration of stifling oil exploration and contributed to rising oil costs.

“There has been a conscious effort to make it difficult to drill in this country,” the Kentucky Republican said on “Fox News Sunday.” “Sixty percent of our oil is coming from overseas. That’s unacceptable. We have vast reserves in this country, particularly in Alaska. My goodness, when are we going to use our own reserves and quit depending so much on areas of the world that don’t like us?”

Senate Minority Whip Jon Kyl contended that tapping the reserve is the wrong solution. The reserve is for a crisis in the oil supply, while gas prices are currently being driven up by demand, the Arizona Republican said on “State of the Union.”

Issuing drilling permits for the Gulf of Mexico would alleviate the problem, he said. Permits for deep-water drilling have been restricted since the massive BP oil spill last year.

“We can get American energy online if we simply grant the permits so the companies can start the drilling,” Kyl said.

Durbin called on Democrats and the GOP to cooperate on energy policy.

“The fact that we’re spending $1 billion a day as a nation importing oil, these are things which call out for us to be thinking in bipartisan terms to come up with an energy policy that serves our nation,” he said. Such policy would include “responsible exploration and production right here in the United States,” energy efficiency and an examination of the environmental effect of energy use, he added.

McConnell warned that damage to nuclear power plants in Japan following a series of devastating earthquakes that started last week should not affect the debate about whether to pursue more nuclear energy in America.

“I don’t think right after a major environmental catastrophe is a very good time to be making American domestic policy,” McConnell said. “I think we ought to just concentrate on helping the Japanese in any way that we can. … My thought about it is, we ought not to make American and domestic policy based upon an event that happened in Japan.”

Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Chairman Joe Lieberman disagreed, saying that the United States should review its preparedness for a similar catastrophe.

“I’ve been a big supporter of nuclear power because it’s domestic, it’s ours and it’s clean. And we’ve had a good safety record with nuclear power plants here in the United States. … I don’t want to stop the building of nuclear power plants, but I think we’ve got to kind of quietly, quickly put the brakes on until we can absorb what has happened in Japan as a result of the earthquake and the tsunami, and then see what more of anything we can demand of the new power plants that are coming,” the Connecticut Independent said Sunday on CBS’ “Face the Nation.”