- The Washington Times - Friday, March 2, 2012

With the price of gas rising, Americans are feeling pain at the pump and President Obama is feeling the heat. Three years of his failed energy policies have done nothing to give America energy security. About the only quick fix the president has available is to tap the Strategic Petroleum Reserve.

That’s what he did last June when he sold 30 million barrels of oil to address rising gas prices. It is almost inevitable that Mr. Obama will try tapping the reserve again. The only question is when he will do it. Raiding our emergency reserves now would be nothing more than a campaign trick.

The reserve was meant for unanticipated emergencies and severe supply disruptions. Presidents have sold oil to deal with those kinds of emergencies twice before - during Operation Desert Storm (17 million barrels) and Hurricane Katrina (11 million barrels).

After Mr. Obama’s release in June, gas prices dropped by about 8 cents. Then they bounced back even higher within a month.

It would cost $4 billion to replace the oil the president took out last year. That’s about $1 billion more than he sold it for. Taxpayers will be on the hook to pay the bill.

Soaring fuel prices are exactly what you expect when Washington overregulates, restricts access and tries to control the marketplace. We’re headed for the most predictable energy crisis in history. Mr. Obama’s “solutions” have made things worse.

The Obama administration already has stopped issuing permits to explore for energy in the Gulf of Mexico. It intends to restrict future drilling to less than 3 percent of all areas off our coasts. Oil production on public lands and waters dropped nearly 14 percent from 2010 to 2011.

When the president rejected the Keystone XL pipeline, he shut the door on Canadian oil. That oil could have replaced what we import from such places as socialist Venezuela.

Now the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is putting the final touches on a new rule that will force oil refiners to change how they make gasoline. This one new policy - the “Tier 3 rule” - could drive up the cost of gas even higher.

These Obama regulations and restrictions take more money out of the pockets of American families through higher gas prices. That is all part of the president’s plan.

Mr. Obama admitted during his last election campaign that he did not mind higher prices, though he said he preferred a “gradual” increase. Prices have doubled gradually since he took office.

The president has said he wants green energy to be the cheapest form of energy. He is trying to accomplish this by pushing policies that raise the price of red, white and blue energy.

The idea was to increase the cost of fossil fuels and subsidize alternatives such as solar power. Washington would control the energy market and pick winners and losers in the economy.

The president calls it “investment,” but someone always has to pay for that investment. In this case, it’s everyone who buys gasoline.

Higher prices have always been unpopular. President Obama needs to give himself some political cover. That’s why he gave a last-minute speech on the subject while campaigning in Florida recently. He blamed higher prices on Republicans, oil companies, China and everyone else he could think of.

Meanwhile, Mr. Obama’s policies have focused on promoting his unrealistic vision of all Americans driving electric cars and powering their homes with solar panels.

As the president makes excuses for his inaction and bad policy choices, America continues to import essentially the same amount of oil as the day he took office.

What we need are real solutions to develop American energy sources. Oil and gas power our economy. They are essential parts of a true “all-of-the-above” energy policy.

The Obama administration resists this approach. It prefers to hope for alternative energy in the future and rely on imported oil from the Middle East until then. Democratic Sen. Charles E. Schumer recently echoed that preference by calling for Saudi Arabia to increase its oil production.

More oil from the Middle East and less from the United States is exactly the opposite of a rational energy policy.

Republicans in the Senate have proposed common-sense legislation to roll back some of the EPA’s most destructive regulations and free up energy exploration off our coasts and on federal land.

Increased American production and reduced costs are essential to maintaining our energy security. Tapping our strategic reserves now would provide relief to the president, not to American consumers. We don’t need more political games from the White House. We need Mr. Obama to get serious about making the most of America’s energy resources.

Sen. John Barrasso is a Wyoming Republican.