Tapping the U.S. emergency oil stockpile through the release of emergency oil reserves can make the markets more anxious, not less, about future conditions in the oil market. Policy analysts in Washington are now questioning whether President Obama will tap oil reserves in the coming weeks.
Renewed unrest throughout the Middle East and North Africa, as well as other geopolitical and economic pressures, could prompt the Obama Administration to tap reserves for a second time during this presidency.
Oil prices reached a four-month high on Sept. 14, an increase exacerbated by the Federal Reserve's latest round of quantitative easing. While prices have since fluctuated, the current volatile market could see prices continue to rise and fall in the seven weeks leading up to the elections.
Oil ended Sept. 19 at 3.5 percent lower. The drop has been blamed on comments from Saudi officials, and on technical trends that created resistance above $100. Some analysts also pointed to seasonal patterns, and demand worries.
White House officials are monitoring oil markets, with Obama insisting that all options for dealing with the high oil prices remain on the table – including a Strategic Petroleum Reserve release.
Republicans would likely frame any non-emergency strategic petroleum reserve sale as a politically motivated action intended to temporarily lower gas prices ahead of the November election.