Oil crisis simulation underlines lack of US policy
* Ex-officials participate in oil crisis simulation
* Debate revolves around when to tap emergency reserves
* "We have met the enemy and he is us"-Schwab
By Timothy Gardner
WASHINGTON, July 13 (Reuters) - The cable news headlines were fictional, the cabinet members were played by ex-officials, but the message was real: Don't wait until crisis hits a major oil exporter to hammer out U.S. energy policy.
In white-knuckled scenes during a energy crisis war-game on Wednesday, the cabinet debated how to guide the U.S. president after an attack from helicopters, thought to be directed by al Qaeda, shut down a main Saudi Arabian crude processing center.
In the background, GNN, a nonexistent news channel, showed oil prices jumping to nearly $200 a barrel over two days, threatening to push the United States back into recession.
This was not the White House situation room, but a Ritz Carlton Hotel ballroom about a mile away. Former U.S. officials and an ex-CEO of the U.S. arm of a major oil company played cabinet members in the simulation put on by a nonprofit group called SAFE, or Securing America's Future Energy.
The national security adviser, played by Stephen Hadley, George W. Bush's former security adviser, desperately asked the team whether the loss of 2 million barrels per day of Saudi Arabian oil and fears of more attacks should prompt the president to quickly tap the 727 million barrel Strategic Petroleum Reserve, or SPR, to calm markets. Continued...