WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senators Olympia J. Snowe (R-Maine) and Jeff Merkley (D-Oregon) today introduced legislation aimed at reducing the federal government’s consumption of oil in emergency situations. The federal government currently consumes about 1.5 percent of the nation’s energy, which costs taxpayers approximately $25 billion per year. The Strategic Petroleum Demand Response Act would require the Secretary of Energy to develop an emergency plan – working on a voluntary basis with states, local governments, and private companies – that the President could execute to lower petroleum demand. According to the most recent data from the Energy Information Administration, the United States consumes nearly 17 million barrels of oil per day and it is estimated that Saudi Arabia’s total potential output is slightly more than 12 million barrels per day.
“In an emergency, the President has the authority to release up to 700 million barrels of oil from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve, which would account for roughly 30-40 days of supply. While it is critical to have these strategic supplies in the case of an emergency, we can also reduce the price of gas by taking aggressive steps to reduce the federal government’s consumption of oil and simultaneously save taxpayers’ money,” said Senator Snowe. “We must provide the President the flexibility to ambitiously reduce the consumption of oil and avoid using our strategic supply as political instability continues in the Middle East. And in the event of a crisis, it is imperative the federal government do its part to ensure its oil consumption does not unnecessarily drive up demand, and thus cost, of this precious resource for all Americans.”
“There are two ways to bring down high gas prices: increase the supply or reduce the demand. Both strategies should be on the table. When gas prices are high enough to trigger the release of oil from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve, they should also trigger a coordinated federal response to lessen demand. The federal government is a huge consumer of petroleum, and should take the lead in making better use of our oil in an emergency,” said Senator Merkley.
Specifically, the Strategic Petroleum Demand Response Act would direct the Secretary of Energy to develop a Strategic Petroleum Demand Response Plan to immediately reduce the consumption of oil by the federal government. Types of activities that could be included in the plan are: 1) telecommuting by federal workers, 2) flexible work plans to avoid traffic congestion; 3) reduced use of oil to heat and cool federal buildings; and, 4) suspension of noncritical travel by federal employees. The plan could not impair national security or other critical government functions. Additionally, the legislation would allow the Secretary of Energy to develop voluntary programs with private companies, local governments, and state governments to reduce their consumption of energy as well.