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US could tap oil stockpiles as prices rise: Obama

March 12, 2011

WASHINGTON (AFP) – President Barack Obama on Friday said he had “tee-ed up” moves to tap emergency US oil stockpiles, as Middle East violence pushed up gas prices for hard-hit US consumers.

Trying to tamp down concern that oil prices will continue to rise on Middle East unrest, Obama said he was willing to make a rare move to open the strategic reserve, but not yet.

“We are going to try to do everything we can” to stabilize the market, Obama said.

“Everybody should know that should the situation demand it, we are prepared to tap the significant stockpile of oil that we have in the strategic petroleum reserve.”


With Americans struggling with pump prices that have risen around 43 cents a gallon (3.8 liters) to an average $3.54 in the last month, Obama sought to convince voters he understood their economic pain and was ready to act if things get worse.

“In an economy that relies on oil, gas prices affect everybody,” Obama said. “Businesses see rising prices affect their bottom line. Families feel the pinch every time they fill up the tank.”

But he argued the supply shock from events in Libya was not enough to warrant tapping the reserves and could be dealt with through other means.

“(What) we are seeing is not a shortage of supply… Libya for example, does not account for a large portion of overall world production.”

He said other oil-producing nations would fill any gaps caused by falling Libyan supplies amid the turmoil in that North African nation.

“We will continue to coordinate closely with our international partners to keep all options on the table when it comes to any supply disruptions.”

He added that the US authorities would also “monitor for price gouging to make sure that nobody is taking advantage of working families at the pump.”

Trying to harness rising oil prices to restate the case for weaning the United States off its oil addiction, Obama said more must be done to green the world’s largest economy.

“The hard truth is that as long as our economy depends on foreign oil, we’ll always be subject to price spikes,” he said.

“So we have to be moving on a comprehensive energy strategy that pursues more energy production and more energy conservation.”

Obama’s political foes have sought to more expensive gasoline to Obama’s policies, particularly the constraints placed on domestic drilling in the wake of the Gulf of Mexico oil spill.

“Washington has been a big part of the problem,” Republican House speaker John Boehner said this week.

“The Obama administration has consistently blocked American energy production that would lower cost and create jobs in our country.”

Obama fired back Friday: “Any notion that my administration has shutdown oil production might make for a good political sound bite, but it does not match up with reality.”

“We are encouraging offshore exploration and production. We are just doing it responsibly.”

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