Advertisement - Click to support our sponsors.

Tuesday, September 26, 2000

Clinton helps Al Gore
by tapping oil reserve

Bullet The issue: President Clinton has ordered the release of 30 million barrels of oil from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve.

Bullet Our view: The decision was designed to make Vice President Gore look effective with the presidential election approaching.

PRESIDENT Clinton's decision to release 30 million barrels of oil from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve, ostensibly in an attempt to bring down oil prices, appears to have more to do with politics than economics. The announcement came barely 24 hours after Vice President Gore proposed the action and seemed designed to make the Democratic presidential candidate look effective.

Gore opposed tapping the reserve last winter when oil prices for home heating went up. At the time, he pointed out that the oil-producing nations could easily counter such a step by curtailing exports.

What is different now is mainly that the election is a lot closer. And Gore's Republican opponent, Gov. George W. Bush, has been accusing the administration of having no energy policy.

Gore evidently felt he had to show he was on top of the issue -- particularly because the people most dependent on heating oil live in many of the swing states of the Midwest, which are likely to determine the outcome of the election. And Clinton played along.

Treasury Secretary Lawrence Summers argued that the release of oil from the strategic reserve would "set a dangerous precedent." As Gore did last winter, Summers pointed out that OPEC could easily offset the release by cutting back its exports.

Summers also said oil traders might dismiss any action as a political ploy rather than a commitment to lower oil prices. But those arguments lost to the need to show the voters that the Democrats were doing something.

There is a further irony. In his book, "Earth in the Balance," Gore advocated higher gasoline prices as a way to discourage consumption. But that line has been conveniently buried now that prices are rising and people are complaining -- and their votes might reflect their unhappiness.

Gore has been accusing "Big Oil" of gouging consumers and blasting Bush and his running mate, Dick Cheney, for their ties to the oil industry. But Gore's family for years was closely associated with Occidental Petroleum's chief owner, Armand Hammer.

In addition to ordering the release from the strategic reserve, Clinton directed that $400 million in federal aid be released to shield low-income families from exorbitant heating costs. This makes more sense than the release.

INDUSTRY analysts say the reason for high prices is a shortage of refining capacity, not tight supplies of crude oil. Consequently, the release of oil from the strategic reserve is unlikely to make more heating oil available.

There have been releases from the strategic reserve in the past, and in the future there may be occasions short of a full-scale emergency when more oil should be released. But this time the purpose seems to make Al Gore look good with the election approaching.

Milosevic’s options

Bullet The issue: Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic appears to have lost his bid for re-election.

Bullet Our view: Milosevic can be expected to use fraudulent measures to remain in power.

YUGOSLAVS appear to have voted to oust President Slobodan Milosevic but that may not be enough to force him from office. Despite pressure from abroad and demonstrations at home, Milosevic can be expected to use every tactic at his disposal to maintain his grip.

Milosevic has been in control of Yugoslavia -- now consisting of the provinces of Serbia and Montenegro -- for 13 years. He changed the country's constitution to call the elections nine months early and prolong his hold on power.

However, opposition candidate Vojislav Kostunica, a university law professor, led Milosevic by about 54 percent of the votes to 34 percent, according to opposition poll watchers. Even government officials conceded that Milosevic lacked the majority to avoid a runoff, although they insisted he received more votes than Kostunica.

Official election returns are being withheld as Milosevic develops his strategy. If he determines that his margin of defeat is too wide to be made up with phantom votes contrived from unsupervised voting stations, he may opt for an Oct. 8 runoff. If even that would be seen as far-fetched, he may challenge opposition votes on frivolous grounds through the Yugoslav courts, which he controls.

Regardless of the election results, Milosevic is expected to try clinging to the presidency until next July, when his current term originally was scheduled to expire.

In the meantime, according to some analysts, he could return his position and executive powers to the republic of Serbia, where he holds power, leaving Kostunica a presidency without authority.

Milosevic can be relied upon to use every tactic imaginable to remain in power. The alternative would be to risk being turned over to the United Nations war crimes tribunal in the Hague, which indicted him last year.

Reports of Kostunica's victory are a heartening indication that Yugoslavs have had enough of Milosevic. The United States and other democratic governments should maintain pressure on the dictator to deter him from stealing the election.

Published by Liberty Newspapers Limited Partnership

Rupert E. Phillips, CEO

John M. Flanagan, Editor & Publisher

David Shapiro, Managing Editor

Diane Yukihiro Chang, Senior Editor & Editorial Page Editor

Frank Bridgewater & Michael Rovner, Assistant Managing Editors

A.A. Smyser, Contributing Editor

Text Site Directory:
[News] [Business] [Features] [Sports] [Editorial] [Do It Electric!]
[Classified Ads] [Search] [Subscribe] [Info] [Letter to Editor]

© 2000 Honolulu Star-Bulletin