Iowa Congressman Bruce Braley, a Democrat from Waterloo, is calling on the president to open the strategic petroleum reserve to help lower gas prices. Braley says gas prices are increasing in part because of speculation and saber-rattling by Iran, and not because of increased public demand.

He says opening up the strategic reserve worked before when there were concerns about Libya. “It had an immediate and positive impact on the price of gas at the pump, and the reserve has been replenished gradually since then, and it is now up to nearly full capacity again,” Braley says.

Braley says releasing oil from the reserve would place downward pressure on gas prices and be a positive short-term impact “until we have to come up with more long-term solutions to stabilize the market.”

Critics say President Obama and Democrats have not come up with any long-term energy policy and have instead hindered development with moves such as blocking the Keystone X-L oil pipeline from Canada.

Braley disagrees, saying they have a strategy. “Well, the long-term strategy includes a host of different approaches. It’s finding ways to increase domestic production and production from reliable allies, including our neighbors in Canada and Mexico, who are our best sources of oil from nearby,” according to Braley.

He says the strategy includes education as well. “It also includes reminding Americans of the positive benefits of conservation and utilizing nontraditional sources, like wind, solar and other means that we need to continue to encourage, and which has had a huge economic impact on the state of Iowa,” Braley says.

Braley directly defended the president’s energy policies. “President Obama pointed out recently in response to these criticisms — we are producing more domestic oil right now than we have in the last 20 years,” Braley says. “So the claims that Democrats and President Obama have stifled the flow of oil to the American public are just wrong.”

The congressman says there’s not a simplistic solution to the high gas prices and that’s why the public needs to educate themselves on all the factors involved in the continued price hikes. Braley says there needs to be a “frank and honest” conversation about all the problems, and he is happy to have that discussion.