from Energy, Security, and Climate and Energy Security and Climate Change Program

New Study: Lessons Learned from the 2011 Strategic Petroleum Reserve Release

September 13, 2012

Blog Post

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Fossil Fuels


Diplomacy and International Institutions

Financial Markets

As anyone who follows the oil market knows, speculation is rife that the White House may soon decide to tap the U.S. Strategic Petroleum Reserve (SPR). Whether they will remains to be seen. But before officials in the United States and other International Energy Agency (IEA) member countries take any action, it’s crucial they weigh the lessons of last summer’s release of national oil stockpiles.

In a new CFR study, I’ve tried to tackle exactly that issue: What can the 2011 oil release teach us for 2012?

Various debates about the SPR have been making headlines in recent months: that it’s too big, or that it shouldn’t exist at all; that it has no effect on prices, that it does; that it is nothing more than a political tool, that it is actually a critical resource.

My study helps make sense of some of these contradictory views. It combines participant interviews with independent analysis to assess lessons from the 2011 IEA emergency intervention for physical and financial markets, U.S. SPR operations, and international diplomacy.

You can read the paper here.