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A federally administered stockpile of petroleum established in 1975 in response to the oil crisis of the early 1970s. While it is commonly assumed that the SPR is meant to be used only during wartime, this is not correct. Its purpose was reaffirmed in a 1998 policy statement:
"This reserve should be used solely for responding to ... severe oil-supply disruptions."

The SPR currently holds 571 million barrels of oil, enough to take the place of about 40 days of US oil imports. The SPR has been tapped only once, when President Bush sold 17.3 million barrels at a cometitive auction during Operation Desert Storm. The President is authorized to make sales from the SPR to private companies in the event of a supply emergency. The oil itself is located in vast salt caverns on the Gulf coast.

If the U.S. administration actually had any market savvy or even a good long term approach, they would have topped up the SPR a couple of years ago with premium crude oil then selling for US$10/barrel.

Doing that would have left them in a great position to threaten to sell to bring the price under control today as the price of crude oil still lingers around US$35/barrel. President Clinton's threats to release part of the SPR soon to bring the price of crude down is meaningless unless he also can show that the U.S. is willing to refill the same reserve when the price is low.

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