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The lowdown on our backup oil
Mar 31, 2022
Episode 632

The lowdown on our backup oil

Using the petroleum reserve comes with costs.

As energy prices soar due to the Russian invasion of Ukraine, the U.S. is drawing on government petroleum reserves. But getting the oil flowing and to market isn’t easy. We’ll explain the realities of tapping the Strategic Petroleum Reserve. Plus, an hourslong gap in former President Donald Trump’s phone log on Jan. 6, 2021, is drawing scrutiny from Democrats in Congress. In Texas, parents of transgender kids are weighing the costs of staying or leaving the state, given new anti-trans orders. And finally, some very clever basketball-loving law students in North Carolina made us smile.

Here’s everything we talked about today:

Got a question for the hosts? Saw something interesting you want to share? Email us at makemesmart@marketplace.org or leave us a message at 508-U-B-SMART(508-827-6278).

Make Me Smart March 31, 2022 transcript

Note: Marketplace podcasts are meant to be heard, with emphasis, tone and audio elements a transcript can’t capture. Transcripts are generated using a combination of automated software and human transcribers, and may contain errors. Please check the corresponding audio before quoting it.

Kai Ryssdal: I’m not hearing anything, Bridget. I’m just hearing me talking and Kimberly talking.

Kimberly Adams: I hear music though.

Kai Ryssdal: Yeah, I guess whoever’s in charge was like, yeah, that’s good. Everything’s fine. Let’s just go.

Kimberly Adams: Okay, yes, let’s go. I’m Kimberly Adams, and welcome back to Make Me Smart. Where we make today make sense. Thank you so much for joining us.

Kai Ryssdal: I’m Kai Ryssdal. It is Thursday. That means we’ve got some news to go over some make me smiles to share before we get y’all on your way. So we will dig right in today. But I’ll go first just in the sequence of events here because I think I think that works better with the Make Me Smile sequencing. So I just – I just I feel the need to make sure everybody understands what’s going on with the whole Strategic Petroleum Reserve release that the president announced today and which has sent oil prices down, you know, the US benchmark West Texas Intermediate about 6% today. So it – just to go over the details, it’s going to be a million barrels a day for 180 days, starting as soon as the Strategic Petroleum Reserve can get its stuff together and get all that oil flowing, which is what I really want to point out. It’s an article in Bloomberg, which lays out some of the realities about the SPR that maybe not everybody is aware of. Okay, so first of all, it is as I think we have said on Marketplace is the world’s biggest emergency supply started after the Arab oil embargo of the 1970s. And it was designed and this is important to last 25 years. That’s the lifespan that the equipment was designed for. We are now well beyond that. And what happens is that every time you use this oil, every time you draw down, because let’s remember, it’s not stored in tanks and accessible stuff above ground, it’s in salt caves, underground. So you pull oil out, you pull oil out, you put oil in, and there is deterioration in the piping, there’s deterioration in the physical structure of the Strategic Petroleum Reserve, it takes about 20 days to get oil to market from the SPR. So that’s going to be a little bit of a problem because you know, we want it today and it’s going to be another three weeks. It’s just it’s not all sunshine and light is number one number two is contextually a million barrels a day is about 5% of what the United States uses, is about 1% of global oil demand on a daily basis. The amount of Russian oil that’s currently now not getting to market is 3 million barrels a day. So we’re not even making up for that. And I just need everybody to understand that this is a short term, semi fix to a much longer term problem. And that’s my riff on oil for this Thursday. That’s what I got.

Kimberly Adams: Yes to all of that. But aren’t several other countries also tapping into their strategic reserves? I feel like I saw that …

Kai Ryssdal: Oh yeah, this is a coordinate, this is a coordinated thing. You bet it’s total of 60 million barrels total 60 million barrels, obviously not on a daily basis. So look, it’s going to fill some of the gap, but Russian oil is off the market, Iranian oil is still off the market, Venezuelan crude, which is the really really good stuff, the delicious, light, sweet stuff. That’s not fully on. So so there are some challenges in global oil and and, and look, okay, I’m going to be a jerk here. The best possible thing to happen for the planet would be for everybody to let the market work, truly. For everybody to make sure that we all know that oil is not sustainable as a source of energy. And we should invest heavily in the renewables. But of course, we’re not going to do that because politics, and because we’re human, I mean, I get it. But but we’re bailing out a – I’m going to totally mess up my metaphors. We’re bailing out a sinking ship here. That’s an oil tanker that’s got not enough crude in it. I don’t even know. It’s, it’s not a sustainable solution to to a global problem. You know?

Kimberly Adams: Okay, but think about how to say this. It’s like, yes, politics are grim at the moment in terms of getting things done and doing things differently. But I also like don’t want to just roll over and say, none of this can be fixed. None of this can be addressed.

Kai Ryssdal: No, I get that.

Kimberly Adams: Because I remember all the conversations we had leading up to the gosh, what is time, the 2020 election I think, where we were talking about voter turnout, right? And all of these people out working to increase voter turnout despite a lot of active efforts of voter suppression. And what happened? We had drastically increased voter turnout in a pandemic, because people took action. And so yes, we are in a moment where lots of people just want cheaper gas prices. But it is an opportunity for people to say, “okay, gas is expensive, maybe this is the time to get the extra energy behind efforts to reduce consumption, or this is the time to lobby for more public transit,” like I was talking about yesterday. And so I just like, I don’t, I hope that we don’t live in a state where just because nothing feels like it’s moving quickly enough in Washington, that we all just throw up our hands and say, nothing can be done.

Kai Ryssdal: No, I don’t. Look, I I completely agree. I don’t think this is a Washington problem, right? This is a humanity problem. It’s a big oil problem. It’s a corporate America problem. It’s, it’s we want what we want when we want it in this country. And what we want and have wanted for years is to drive big cars to get seven miles to the gallon. And, you know, all those kinds of things. I totally agree with you. I totally agree this bear gets you nowhere. But I’m I try to be firmly grounded in reality.

Kimberly Adams: Yeah, but to your point about letting the market work. How much longer are people gonna want those cars that get seven miles to a gallon when gas prices are what they are.

Kai Ryssdal: I don’t know. I got a minivan anybody can have for cheap. If they want to swap me in electric or something. That’s all I’m saying. Anyway, that’s my news.

Kimberly Adams: I know that we usually look outside of the Marketplace realm for stories for the news fixes. But I really have to encourage everyone, if you haven’t already heard this piece that Amy Scott did today, to please go back. And listen, it’s amazing. It’s about families, parents of transgender kids in Texas, trying to decide whether they should stay or go, given the new laws and the risk of being referred to Child Protective Services for gender affirming care, and what it costs. Both the families that leave, financially and emotionally, and what it costs those who are left behind, and sort of the economic decision of whether you can afford to leave whether you can afford to stay, you know, and amazing piece by Amy Scott, please go and listen to it. It really was. And the other story that I’ve been kind of sitting on since yesterday, because I just can’t stop thinking about it is more reporting from CBS and the Washington Post. About – why are you laughing Kai?

Kai Ryssdal: No, it’s amazing reporting from the CBS and the Washington Post. It’s it’s it’s incredible.

Kimberly Adams: Yeah. It’s it’s just it’s incredible. So they’re starting to get access to more and more of these documents that the January 6th committee has subpoenaed and then are actually starting to get, and there is a gap in President Trump’s phone log that lasts seven hours and 37 minutes, which just so happens to include the period when the riots were happening and the assault on the Capitol happened. And for some context, Nixon’s gap was something like what was 17 minutes?

Kai Ryssdal: It was it was 18 minutes. Rose Mary woods. Yeah.

Kimberly Adams: 18 minutes. Right. And, and this was a huge scandal that they hadn’t, you know, maintained the records, according to the presidential requirements and all of the laws, you’re supposed to keep track of all these things. 17 minute gap, huge scandal, right, because what could have possibly happen those 17 minutes, we’re talking about more than seven hours. And according to some reporting from The Guardian, at least one call from the official White House phone happened during that time. So some of these calls could have potentially happened on cell phones or on burner phones that have been destroyed. But some of these calls at least one according to the Guardian happened on official White House lines and should have been documented. So this is ongoing. This is important information that we need to know to figure out what went down and it’s important to know how that all went down and and who was doing what and who was talking to whom and, and, ultimately, who’s responsible. So So, yeah, keep following that reporting from CBS in The Washington Post. It’s really astonishing.

Kai Ryssdal: It’s just amazeballs. Amazeballs. Anyway, shall we? Let’s go.

Kimberly Adams: Yeah.

Kai Ryssdal: Okay, so my, are you gonna go first or am I gonna go first?

Kimberly Adams:  No, no, it’s okay. You go ahead. Okay.

Kai Ryssdal: Alright, so here’s mine, it sort of flows out of the entire Trump episodes of late, something like a week or so ago, President Trump filed a lawsuit against like 50 or so people, groups, take your pick. Politicians, accusing them of and here’s the quote from the lawsuit, “Weaving false narratives, presenting injurious falsehoods, theft of trade secrets, conspiracy to commit racketeering,” that’s important that’ll come up in a minute. Hillary Clinton was in this lawsuit. It was just a huge bucket full of just stuff. Daily Beast wrote about it today. And they quoted a guy by the name of Ken White, who I happen to know in real life. He’s a friend of mine. But he’s also very active on Twitter. And he’s just he’s funny. He’s super, super funny. And so he tweeted today, his quote in that article in in the BuzzFeed art – in The Daily Beast article about this lawsuit, and here’s what it said. Ken White, a First Amendment lawyer and former federal prosecutor had an even rougher take on the twice-impeached former president’s newest vengeful lawsuit, quote, “Trump’s RICO complaint is frequently freakishly unprofessional and legally bumptious. Rather than a serious effort by serious lawyers. It’s a performative caper by injudiciously barred clowns,” White said on Tuesday. “This sort of fundraising and rabble rousing by litigation is unethical and bad for for legal system.” I – follow Ken he’s @Popehat on Twitter. He’s a good guy, just completely hysterical. And I just you know, “freakishly professional and legal legally bumptious.” I just love that one. Anyway, that’s it.

Kimberly Adams: The vocabulary in there. Wow, that was great.

Kai Ryssdal: He’s good. Yeah, he’s good.

Kimberly Adams: I bet he’s great at Wordle.

Kai Ryssdal: He probably is. I’ll ask him.

Kimberly Adams: Okay, mine just tickled me so much. So on Twitter, as since we’re talking about people who are apparently really good at Twitter, Sarah Warf, who is a law professor at the University of North Carolina, tweeted this amazing thread. It starts with “Friends, I gotta tell you about what our students did buckle up. It’s amazing. So basically, these students have this major paper or a motion memo due that’s worth 65% of your, their grade. And they only have 10 days to work at it work on it, right? Huge portion of their grade, this big legal document that they have to write. And however, this weekend, there’s this big NCAA matchup between UNC and Duke. And so one of the students that, I’m going to read from her tweet, drafted a motion for extension of time and filed it with their professor. She says it’s beautifully formatted cited the syllabus and other sources. And it’s just generally delightful. They filed a legal motion to their professors to have their deadline extended. And the professors all got together. And and they got an amicus brief from somebody else as to why that deadline should be extended. And then all the professors got together and they granted it and granted it in like a formal legal document. And all of this is just lovely. Somebody else did a Tik Tok about it. And I’m like, I’m don’t watch basketball like that. But I was very entertained by this thread and the creativity, creativity of these students in getting their deadline extended is fune.

Kai Ryssdal: Totally, totally. That’s why should they should get the deadline extended for the creativity. Forget the ball game.

Kimberly Adams: Yes, absolutely.

Kai Ryssdal: That’s awesome. Good stuff. Yeah.

Kimberly Adams: And that’s all the stuff for today. We’ll be back tomorrow for economics on tap. I believe Kai will be having a beer. And we’ll be live streaming on YouTube.

Kai Ryssdal: Except I don’t know, I won’t be here. I’m off. I’m off.

Kimberly Adams: Oh, well, nevermind. I hope you have a beer wherever you are. Okay, it’ll be live streaming on YouTube. And that’s at 3:30 Pacific. 6:30 Eastern Time. And it’ll be a great time had by those who are here, not Kai.

Kai Ryssdal: It will be. If you’ve got something you need to say to us or a question you need to ask us, you know how to do that email or voice memo and makemesmart@marketplace.org. Or leave us a message at 508-UB-SMART.

Kimberly Adams: I’m informed that it’s gonna be Amy which is great because I just talked about her. Make Me Smart is produced by Marissa Cabrera with help from Marque Greene and today’s episode was engineered by Jayk Cherry.

Kai Ryssdal: Bridget Bodnar is our senior producer, the director of On Demand is Donna Tam. There you go.

Kimberly Adams: Yeah. The amicus brief even has like pictures. That’s so fun.

Kai Ryssdal: That’s pretty good. That’s pretty good.

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