Oil Supply – The Strategic Petroleum Reserve

With the disruption in oil production in Libya petrol prices at the pump are creeping ever higher. As reported in The Economist, Spain import 12% of its oil from Libya and has reduced the speed limit to save on fuel consumption.

In the US there has been a lot of pressure on President Obama to release part of the country’s Strategic Petroleum Reserve (SPR) in order to reduce oil prices and assist with the global recovery. Currently the US has 727m barrels in the SPR and this would keep the US economy going for 38 days. The reserve was set up after the supply shock of the 1973 Yom Kippur War when oil prices went from $2.50/barrel to $10/barrel. On previous occasions oil has been released form the SPR:

Hurricane Katrina 2005 – 30m barrels released = Oil prices↓ 3.7%
Gulf War 2003 – 34m barrels released = Oil prices ↓ 33.4%

Other countries do also have reserves
European countries – 420m barrels
Japan – 320m barrels

However, releasing some of the SPR might mean that OPEC feel less inclined to pump more oil but the issue of high prices has a lot to do with long-term global demand and supply rather than the current state of Libya.

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