Top Senate Democrat urges tapping oil reserve

Reuters News
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Posted: Mar 21, 2011 3:29 PM

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - President Barack Obama should tap the country's strategic oil reserve to combat rising fuel prices, a top Senate Democrat said on Sunday.

Dick Durbin, the Senate's No. 2 Democrat, said the run up in gas prices in recent weeks could hurt the economy's recovery and urged the president to release oil from the 727 million-barrel reserve.

"We need to consider moving toward the Strategic Petroleum Reserve to put the oil that we have in reserve into the economy to try to temper this increase in gas prices," Durbin said on CNN's "State of the Union" program.

"I'm worried that if we don't use the reserve that our economic recovery will stall and fall backward," he said.

The price of oil has risen above $100 a barrel on concerns over supply due to the unrest in North Africa and the Middle East.

Obama, whose prospects for re-election in 2012 may hinge partly on gasoline prices and their effect on the economy, told a news conference on Friday that he could tap the oil reserves quickly if necessary, but he declined to say what price threshold would trigger such intervention.

Two members of the Republican leadership in Congress, Senator Jon Kyl and Representative Kevin McCarthy, said on Sunday they were against tapping the SPR.

"The problem is not supply," Kyl said on CNN's "State of the Union." He said Obama had neglected domestic oil production by failing to issue drilling permits.

(Reporting by Eric Beech; Editing by John Whitesides)