The Strategic Petroleum Reserve is the US Government's emergency petroleum supply. It would be used if the United States could not import crude oil from overseas for some reason, such as an oil embargo, naval blockade, nuclear war, or something equally dire. The Strategic Petroleum Reserve contains about 700 million barrels of oil. At $125 US Dollars (USD) a barrel, its market value is over $88 billion USD.
As the United States imports about 12 million barrels of oil a day, the Strategic Petroleum Reserve has a supply for the entire country about two months. However, only about 4 million barrels a day could be pumped out of the reserve, so it actually has enough petroleum for half a year, though as it stands, it could only fulfill a third of national petroleum requirements. Studies are not available as to the effects this would have on the economy of the United States, but it would undoubtedly be bad.
The Strategic Petroleum Reserve was established in 1975 after the 1973-74 oil embargo, which sent gas prices through the roof and caused lines many blocks long for gas stations. Since 1975, and especially recently, with the rising cost of oil, the United States has been investing in alternative energy sources to one day achieve independence from foreign oil. Possibilities include plug-in hybrid automobiles and the use of fuel cells and biofuels.
Physically, the Strategic Petroleum Reserve consists of four sites on the coast of the Gulf of Mexico. They are subterranean salt domes that have been drained of water and filled with oil. The sites include Bryan Mound in Freeport, Texas (254 million barrels), Big Hill in Winnie, Texas (160 million barrels), West Hackberry in Lake Charles, Louisiana (227 million barrels), and Bayou Choctaw in Baton Rouge, Louisiana (76 million barrels). A future site is planned at Richton, Mississippi, with a capacity of 160 million barrels. All except the Baton Rogue reserve have a drawdown capacity of above a million barrels a day, ranging to 1.5 million barrels a day for the Big Hill and Bryan Mound sites.