The U.S. government just has an instinctive knowledge of how to succeed in business: buy high and sell low.
That’s the case with the latest raid on the oil reserve that is stored in Texas and Louisiana salt domes to provide a backstop for the nation’s economy in the event of a national emergency.
Instead, the U.S. House voted to sell some of the oil reserve to fund an otherwise worthy cause, medical research.
As a physician, U.S. Rep. Charles Boustany could be expected to support the 21st Century Cures Act for biomedical research. After all, the bill was approved 344-77.
But Boustany, R-Lafayette, is from the oil patch and understands the economic and national security issues raised by the funding source.
In 30 years in medicine, Boustany told the House, medical innovation has helped save the lives of countless numbers of his patients, but the new bill is a “false choice.”
“I believe it’s irresponsible to flood the global market for petroleum with more product while Louisiana families are experiencing layoffs because of low global prices,” Boustany said. “Selling barrels from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve should be done in a thoughtful and strategic manner when global prices are high, not as another coffer for Congress to raid at its convenience and at the expense of Louisiana’s oil and gas industry.”
We cannot disagree that the glut in oil supplies, although good for the national and world economy in general, is hurting us here in south Louisiana in a more immediate way.
We would put the stress on the “strategic” in the description of the reserve.
The reserve is not there as a piggybank for Congress. It was set up to be tapped in genuine cases of national emergency. It was used to fuel the economy during the supply disruptions of the 2005 hurricanes in Louisiana — Katrina and then Rita, the latter probably doing more to hurt directly the oil and gas production in the Gulf of Mexico.
Other uses for it are tempting, such as when gasoline prices rise and consumers are aggravated. That short-term political approach is wrong and invites depletion of a strategic resource for a political emergency.