Welch calls for temporary suspension of strategic petroleum reserve deposits

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(Host) Congressman Peter Welch wants to reduce gasoline prices by 25 cents a gallon.

Welch wants to boost the supply of gas by temporarily suspending deposits in the nation’s strategic petroleum reserve.

He says it’s an approach that’s been used successfully several times in the last decade.

VPR’s Bob Kinzel reports.

(Kinzel) Standing outside a gas station in downtown Montpelier, Welch told reporters that it’s critical for the federal government to take immediate steps to help reduce the price of gasoline because consumers, schools and many businesses are struggling with current energy prices.

Take the case of Bellavance Trucking in Barre. The company has roughly 90 trucks that travel about 7 million miles a year.

Roland Bellavance says the cost of fuel has tripled since 2002. That’s important because his trucks use over a million gallons of gas a year.

Bellavance says Welch’s plan would have a positive impact on his business:

(Bellavance) "If we turn the same number of miles that we have been it’s going to cost us 4,934,000 dollars in 2008 for fuel………so if we were able to save 25 cents a gallon………that would save us over 300 thousand dollars a year which for a firm of our size is a huge amount of money."

(Kinzel) Welch says the petroleum reserve is 95 percent full and he argues that a temporary suspension of deposits won’t jeopardize national security. He says his plan will increase the supply of gasoline and help drive prices down:

(Welch) "We’ll leave to economists to define whether or not we’re in a recession but the reality is that people are hurting and one of the things that is hurting them bad is filling up their care filling up their pick up businesses that depend on transportation are really getting clobbered and I believe Congress and the president should take whatever concrete steps that we can particularly when there’s no adverse impact on national security."

(Kinzel) Joe Choquette represents the Vermont Petroleum Association. He says Welch’s plan is only a quick fix to a far more complex problem:

(Choquette) "That may be a reasonable short term solution, in the long term we’ve said for a long time what we need to do is reduce our dependence on foreign oil by developing the resources we have in the United States and most of the lands and areas that hold significant deposits of petroleum crude oil are off limits to exploration. So we would advocate for more of supply side economics than demand side."

(Kinzel) Welch is urging the Bush Administration to implement this plan – if the White House fails to adopt this approach, Welch says he’ll introduce specific legislation to accomplish this goal.

For VPR News I’m Bob Kinzel in Montpelier.

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