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Oil Reserve: Insurance Against Disruptions

October 26, 2002

Ronald Minsk criticizes the Bush administration for beginning to fill the Strategic Petroleum Reserve to its capacity of 700 million barrels (Commentary, Oct. 20). At the start of the Clinton administration, the inventory of the SPR equated to 83 days of imports. In the next eight years, the reserve's inventory was reduced due to ill-advised nonemergency sales of 28 million barrels of oil in 1996 and an interventionist "exchange" of 30 million barrels in 2000. By the end of the Clinton administration, the reserve inventory equated to just 53 days of imports.

The Bush administration is determined to reverse this deterioration and, in coordination with other consuming countries, restore the power and durability of the world's strategic reserves. The most common measure of potency is the number of days of imports the reserve can replace, and President Bush has wisely directed that we provide a larger cushion.

The SPR is a form of insurance against disruptions and their associated price spikes that have devastated world economies three times since 1973. It is our first and, by far, most important protection against those disruptions.

Jeanne Lopatto

Director, Public Affairs

U.S. Department of Energy

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