—Lauren Ruhland, 2008 MCPP intern
In the wake of Hurricane Gustav, the Department of Energy says it may be willing to open up the Strategic Petroleum Reserve to alleviate a potential “economically-threatening disruption” in the oil supply and a subsequent increase in fuel prices. Given that the SPR exists and this is its stated purpose, I guess it could make sense for them to act right now.
Unfortunately, they can’t do it. The system designed to provide the country with petroleum in times of emergency is inaccessible during a power outage, and electricity hasn’t been restored yet.
As the folks over at Knowledge Problem point out, both threats to the oil supply and big power outages are fairly rare. “If the two kinds of events were uncorrelated, then simultaneous power outages and economically-threatening disruptions in oil supplies would unlikely in the extreme,” they write. “But the two kinds of events are not uncorrelated, obviously.” There are generators at the site, but they aren’t powerful enough to pump oil out of reservoirs.