Smarter Sanctions Against Iran

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Use the Strategic Petroleum Reserve, says Philip Verleger of the Peterson Institute.

There is...a way to put real pressure on Iran while moderating or eliminating economic fallout for the US and EU economies and those of their trading partners. Changes in the US energy sector have made a significant portion of the US Strategic Petroleum Reserve (SPR) superfluous. As of January 2012, the US government held almost 690 million barrels of crude in reserve. Thanks to reduced consumption and increased production, one-third of the SPR--roughly 280 million barrels--is no longer required to meet US obligations under the 1974 Agreement on an International Energy Program. This oil could be sold as surplus government property, just as the United States has disposed of surplus stocks of other commodities in the past. Such sales would make a modest contribution to the country's debt reduction efforts.

More importantly, the surplus SPR stocks could be used to solidify support by reducing the likelihood of a significant oil price increase and the attendant threat of recession.

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Clive Crook is a senior editor of The Atlantic and a columnist for Bloomberg View. He was the Washington columnist for the Financial Times, and before that worked at The Economist for more than 20 years, including 11 years as deputy editor. Crook writes about the intersection of politics and economics. More

Crook writes about the intersection of politics and economics.

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