This week, when crude oil topped the $100-per-barrel mark, White House press secretary Dana Perino was asked whether President Bush planned to release oil from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve to drive down the price of home heating fuel -- as Bill Clinton did in September 2000, when he released 30 million barrels in an effort to prop up Al Gore's faltering presidential bid. She responded, "This president would not use the SPR to manipulate (prices), unless there was a true emergency."
Unfortunately, that's the wrong question and the wrong answer. The Strategic Petroleum Reserve was created in the aftermath of the 1973 Mideast war and the ensuing Arab oil embargo. Worldwide, oil prices had risen from $3 per barrel to more than $11 per barrel, triggering a global recession. The following year, the SPR was created, not as a way to manipulate prices but as a means of ensuring the U.S. had sufficient oil available to avoid economic collapse.
Today's record oil prices simply reflect that demand -- much of it from China and India -- is outstripping supply. This problem isn't going to be solved by the new energy law. It will not go away, no matter how many new light bulbs we screw in -- or how much of our food we turn into "renewable" motor fuel.
The solution to this problem isn't just "energy independence" for Americans; it's "independence from oil" for the whole of the planet. This week's new high in the cost of petroleum should have triggered a "crude awakening" among our political leaders, instead of just more finger-pointing rhetoric. Those who wish to lead this nation in the future need to put more than hot air into solutions such as clean, safe nuclear energy for electricity and hydrogen fuel-cell technology for propelling people and products around the planet.
Regrettably, none of those running for president this year has been willing to seriously address the problem of how we get there from here. Perhaps now that the candidates have moved beyond Iowa -- and the Corn Belt -- one of them will announce a real energy plan.
Oliver North is a nationally syndicated columnist, the host of War Stories on the Fox News Channel, the author of the new novel Heroes Proved and the co-founder of Freedom Alliance, an organization that provides college scholarships to the children of U.S. military personnel killed or permanently disabled in the line of duty. Join Oliver North in Israel by going to www.olivernorthisrael.com.