Fri, Mar 26, 2004 - Page 7 News List

Bush rejects tapping US oil reserves

REUTERS , WASHINGTON

The White House on Wednesday fended off calls to tap emergency oil reserves to stem record-high gasoline prices as surging energy costs prompted Democrats to open a new avenue of attacks on President George W. Bush.

Bush faces rising pressure from lawmakers to stop adding to the US oil stockpile known as the Strategic Petroleum Reserve. Critics say replenishing the reserves is taking energy supplies off the market at a critical time.

While a number of Republican lawmakers also want to halt shipments, Democrats have pounced, seeing it as an election-year vulnerability for Bush, a former Texas oilman who has made energy policy a high priority of his presidency.

The Bush administration insists the stockpile should only be reserved for dire circumstances, such as a severe supply disruption.

Underscoring the administration's determination to continue building the stockpile, the government awarded six-month contracts to three major oil companies to deliver 100,405 barrels of oil per day to the strategic reserve.

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