In his second reversal on energy policy in four days, Barack Obama on Monday called for tapping the nation’s emergency oil reserves as Republicans passed out tire gauges to mock Obama’s energy plan.
Obama also released his first unprovoked negative TV ad, accusing John McCain of being “in the pocket of big oil” and linking him to President Bush.
In a speech at Michigan State University, Obama said the United States “should sell 70 million barrels of oil from our Strategic Petroleum Reserve for less expensive crude, which in the past has lowered gas prices within two weeks.”
Less than a month ago, Obama opposed tapping the reserve.
“I do not believe that we should use the strategic oil reserves at this point,” he said in St. Louis. “The strategic oil reserve, I think, has to be reserved for a genuine emergency.
“You have a situation, let’s say, where there was a major oil facility in Saudi Arabia that was destroyed as a consequence of terrorist acts, and you suddenly had huge amounts of oil taken out of the world market, we wouldn’t just be seeing $4-a-gallon oil,” he added. “We could see a situation where entire sectors of the country had no oil to function at all. And that’s what the strategic oil reserve has to be for.”
Obama’s change of heart on the oil reserve came three days after he softened his opposition to off-shore oil drilling. On Monday, he explained that such drilling is one of the “drawbacks” of a compromise energy package being floated on Capitol Hill.
“It includes a limited amount of new offshore drilling, and while I still don’t believe that’s a particularly meaningful short-term or long-term solution, I am willing to consider it if it’s necessary to actually pass a comprehensive plan,” he said. “I am not interested in making the perfect the enemy of the good — particularly since there is so much good in this compromise.”
In June, McCain also reversed course on off-shore drilling by dropping his long-standing opposition to the practice. He was accused of flip-flopping, although polls show most Americans now favor drilling as a way to offset high gasoline prices.
That put Obama on the defensive over energy policy for more than a month. He tried to regain the initiative Monday by releasing a TV ad hitting McCain for opposing a windfall profits tax on oil companies.
Meanwhile, McCain aides and other Republicans passed out tire gauges to mock Obama’s statement last week that “we could save all the oil that they’re talking about getting off drilling, if everybody was just inflating their tires and getting regular tune-ups.”