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Politics and the Strategic Petroleum Reserve

Henrik Weis | Lifesize | Getty Images

Is there anything safe from government interference? It's a silly question, I know, particularly when it comes to high gas prices in an election year.

Denial or not, you can bet President Obama and UK Prime Minister David Cameron at least discussed releasing the Strategic Petroleum Reserve (SPR).

There's clearly politics here, but the president certainly wants to seem like he is making some kind of global coordinated effort to bring down energy prices: The statesman.

And this has happened before: the International Energy Agency coordinated releases from emergency stockpiles in June 2011 (Libya), and after Iraq's invasion of Kuwait in 1990-91 and after hurricanes in the Gulf of Mexico in 2005.

And President Clinton ordered releases from the SPR in 1996 and 2000 (election years, ahem).

Which begs the question: why are oil prices over $100 to begin with? There's plenty of oil in the world, and demand is slack. The obvious answer: the Iran-Israel conflicting is putting some kind of disruption "premium" into oil.

What about energy stocks? Most traders I talked to believe that the release of any reserves would have a minimal effect on oil stocks.

Here's Wells Fargo: "Any withdrawal would likely impact near-term crude pricing, but have little, if any, effect on the longer-term outlook upon which crude producers are typically valued."

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