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Commentary: Keep The Lid On The Strategic Oil Reserve

With oil prices more than $37 a barrel, tapping the Strategic Petroleum Reserve seems like a no-brainer. The U.S. has 570 million barrels of crude sitting idle in salt caverns in Texas and Louisiana, enough to cover all U.S. imports for more than two months. So why not pump some out? What's wrong with a maneuver that could knock some wind out of the oil cartel, relieve consumers, and guard the U.S. from oil-induced stagflation?

Already, the word is that President Clinton is edging closer to a possible release of oil from the reserve. "I'm studying this very closely," he said on Sept. 19. At the same time, the Senate is expected to pass a bill allowing a President to lend oil from the reserve under conditions well short of a national emergency. Under it, the President could act preemptively, not just after a problem has occurred. And he could act even if a problem is regional, not national. A similar bill has passed the House, and Clinton is expected to sign it by the end of September.