Much Ado About $100 Oil

Everyone seems to have something to say as oil hits a price milestone, each with his own spin.

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If you write about energy, apparently nothing can fill up your E-mail inbox like oil briefly hitting the $100-per-barrel mark for the first time. Here is a sampling of the reactions to the crude oil price run-up that I've been urged to note:

Sen. Richard Lugar, an Indiana Republican, speaking at the Lugar Center for Renewable Energy at Indiana University-Purdue University-Indianapolis: "As oil prices have hit $100 per barrel, the income of oil exporting nations is soaring.... Energy is the most vital topic of this presidential election.... Energy is the issue with the widest gulf between what is required to make our nation secure and what is likely to be achieved through the inertia of existing programs and congressional proposals."

Lester Lave, an energy economics expert and professor at Carnegie Mellon University's Tepper School of Business, noting that only 7 percent of gross domestic product is spent on energy, compared with 14 to 15 percent in 1981: "Prices are not high enough for middle-income consumers to change their behavior."

From the office of Rep. Roscoe Bartlett, a Maryland Republican and a founder of the Congressional Peak Oil caucus, lawmakers who argue that the world is geologically reaching the end of its ability to increase supply: "Why has oil increased to $100/barrel? With a nod to James Carville, it's economics, stupid."

Rep. Charles Schumer, a New York Democrat, demands an independent investigation of the Bush administration's plan to continue building the Strategic Petroleum Reserve "amid $100-per-barrel price shock."

Sen. Jeff Bingaman, a Democrat from New Mexico and chairman of the Senate Energy Committee, calls $100-a-barrel oil "a sobering reminder of the critical importance of bolstering our nation's energy security. In some respects, our nation's vulnerabilities in this area are a matter of geology—the United States has only about 3 percent of the world's oil reserves. Some of our vulnerabilities stem from years of neglect in important policy areas."

Rep. Edward Markey, a Massachusetts Democrat, calls on President Bush to release emergency funds under the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program: "It's not just the weather that is sending a chill down the spines of many Americans; it's the oil prices heating up as well."

From the Renewable Fuels Now Coalition: "It's a good thing that Congress and the president had the shared foresight to enact energy legislation in December that guarantees expanded use of renewable fuels like ethanol."

Mark Edwards, professor at Arizona State University and author of Biowar I: Why Battles Over Food and Fuel Lead to World Hunger, warns of the dangers of ethanol production and notes the importance of renewable fuels that do not compete with food.