Monday, April 14, 2008

Not so far with the SPR …

A caller to our Listener Comment Line recently suggested something: Why not release 100 million barrels or so of oil from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve, flood the market, and crash prices?

It’s an interesting idea. It certainly sounds satisfying to anyone who’s suffered at the hands of current fuel prices.

But, realistically, that will never happen.

The current administration is not only intent on filling the current reserve – they want to expand the capacity of the Strategic Petroleum Reserve by 300 million barrels of oil.

Our first step has to be to stop adding oil to this reserve. It is very close to its planned capacity – which means that it can and will serve its intended function: to preserve our energy security.

What concerns me now are two things:

First, I worry about the message we are sending to the world markets. A number of oil industry experts have said that continuing to add to the reserve sends a signal that the U.S. government expects a major disruption in world supply in the near future.

Why else would we add oil at the highest price in history? Wouldn’t a careful, prudent planner buy low and sell high? Isn’t that what they taught us in grade school?

Second, I’m concerned about not only our physical security, but also our economic security.

War is a crisis. That’s plain. But the Depression was just as big a crisis to this nation as any war.

I’m not saying we’re headed into a period like that. But I think any clearheaded person knows we’re in a downturn. I simply don’t see any reason to take actions that can only make it worse.

And that, my friends, is the only possible outcome of continued contributions to the Strategic Petroleum Reserve.

BMI – it stands for “Bums Messing up the Industry”

Recently, I spoke with Melissa Theriault of OOIDA’s Washington, DC, office about the CDL Medical Review Board.

The board hatched a harebrained idea about using BMI, or body mass index – an inaccurate measure at best – to determine how likely truckers are to get sleep apnea.

Their plan was to decide whether to give truckers only provisional medical certification if they were above a certain body mass index figure. Under their proposal – now pretty much approved by that board – nearly half of truckers would face provisional certification.

The idea has a lot of truckers’ blood boiling.

Here are just a few of the long list of problems with this scheme:

First, what they call overweight is not what I call overweight. Under their standards, when Arnold Schwarzenegger was Mr. Universe, he was technically obese.

The way they figure body mass index is inaccurate. It should not be used, period.

Melissa told me at one point this was little more than an employment plan for doctors, since it will force truckers to undergo an unnecessary exam year after year. I thought at the time she was exaggerating, but now I’m not so sure she was wrong.

Trust me when I say, OOIDA will fight this wrongheaded idea.

Hey, buddy – toll this!

On a recent program, we talked about tolls on the George Washington Bridge in New York, and what they’re supposed to be used for.

One of the points I brought up was that a lot of the money collected on the bridge isn’t spent on maintenance; it’s diverted to other spending.

Turns out more of the money’s being taken out of maintenance than I thought. A trucker recently called in to point out that the bridge is poorly maintained at best – and clearly, the huge sums of tolls being collected are not being used as they should be.

And he’s not the only trucker who called in to say this.

What’s more, another trucker called me to say that the Indiana Toll Road – now a privately run enterprise – is being pretty shoddily maintained as well.

I think it’s a damn pity.

If truckers are going to pay a premium, a double tax – which, frankly, is what a toll amounts to – then they should get premium service, not substandard service.

How about this: truckers pay the regular price, and you give them the service they’re paying for. That’s a deal I think you’d find most truckers could live with.