MEDFORD – Standing in front of the pumps at a Medford gas station Wednesday, U.S. Rep. Edward Markey, D-Mass., challenged President Barack Obama to deploy the federal strategic petroleum reserve to combat skyrocketing crude oil prices.
"The president should begin now to deploy the strategic petroleum reserve," said Markey, who represents the 7th Congressional District, which includes Watertown. "We have 730 million barrels of oil, if we are ever going to use it as a weapon to protect ourselves against Saudi Arabia, against Libya, against speculators, now is the time."
Saudi Arabia has taken 800,000 barrels of crude oil per day off the global market, and Libya removed 1.2 million barrels, Markey said. Barrels of oil were trading for over $112 Wednesday on the New York Mercantile Exchange.
"We run the danger of having this price of oil not only tip consumers upside down at the pumps, but also sending (sic) us back into a recession," Markey said.
Markey, a member of the Natural Resources Committee and senior member of the Energy and Commerce Committee, addressed the media at a press conference outside Medford Gas, just south of Medford Square on Main Street Monday afternoon. The price for unleaded gas at the station was $3.96 per gallon.
Along with Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries, bloating oil prices can also be blamed in part on speculators on Wall Street, Markey said. He also criticized Republican proposals to cut the commodities futures trading commission in half, which is charged with regulating oil speculators.
"It is important for the United States to take action because the American consumer is under attack from Libya, from Saudi Arabia, and from speculators in the oil marketplace," he said.
The strategic petroleum reserve has previously been tapped in 1991 by George H.W. Bush during the Persian Gulf War, by Bill Clinton in 2000, and by George W. Bush during the Katrina crisis.
In each case oil prices dropped, Markey said.
"This is a weapon we know does work," he said.
The White House has not indicated they will use the reserve, Markey said.
"I think the time has arrived," he said. "I think they have to do it now."
Markey also announced he has submitted legislation that would repeal about $40 billion in tax breaks for oil companies over the next 10 years.