Gas prices are soaring and the stock market's on a roller coaster ride. Uncertainty about the reliability of the Middle East oil supply is at the heart of all the drama. One move that President Obama could take to calm the market jitters has Congress split.
The administration has said it's open to tapping the Strategic Petroleum Reserve: 727 million barrels of oil that the federal government has stashed away in underground salt caverns along the Gulf Coast.
This week, House Democrats sent a letter to the White House, urging the President to tuck into the emergency stash. They say that'll cool speculation in an overheated market. A number of their Republican colleagues beg to differ.
"The Strategic Petroleum Reserve was designed for extreme circumstances, where presumably you don't have anything coming into the country," Rep. Doc Hastings says.
Hastings, chairman of the House Natural Resources Committee from Washington state, doesn't think even four dollars a gallon amounts to that level of emergency.
Neither does Texas Senator John Cornyn: "I worry that if we use it now, what happens if there's a blockade of the Suez Canal or some other more serious incident?"
The petroleum industry as a whole doesn't much like the idea of dipping into the reserve to lower prices, Cornyn says, "but unfortunately the administration seems to be ideologically opposed to producing red, white and blue energy right here at home."
I guess that's one way to distinguish oil and gas from "green" energy. Ultimately that choice - not whether to touch the emergency stuff - is the real question.