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Why a Strategic Petroleum Reserve Release Won't Help Oil Prices or President Obama

With oil prices showing no signs of retreat during the final months of the U.S. presidential campaign, beltway insiders are turning to one misguided solution to combat rising oil prices.

Releasing oil from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve (SPR).

Trial balloons floated all over Washington during the past few days. The only reason politicians didn't move on this sooner (say a few months ago) was the price level.

Until the last month or so, both oil and gasoline prices were heading in the other direction. Near-month futures contracts for West Texas Intermediate (WTI), the crude oil benchmark traded on the NYMEX, were below $78 a barrel in intraday trade toward the end of June, while the same futures for RBOB (the NYMEX traded gasoline contract) were at $2.55 a gallon.

At the time, all the sage pundits predicted that oil would fall below $60 a barrel; some even suggested that prices could approach $40. On the gasoline side, these same wise guys were proclaiming we may see prices at the pump breach $3.

Everything has changed quickly.

Yesterday morning the markets opened with WTI 23% higher than late June and RBOB up by more than 20%. Oil stands at more than $96 a barrel in New York, while Brent has exceeded $116 a barrel in London. And retail gas prices are once again approaching $4 a gallon.

Recently, I discussed why oil prices are moving up. But for some politicians, including the fellow running for reelection at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, those prices are becoming a job liability.

So it's back to hitting the SPR.

But there are four reasons why tapping the SPR won't make oil prices any cheaper in the end.

Maybe you should let your Congressman know about them...



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