- The Washington Times - Thursday, March 15, 2012

The White House on Thursday downplayed a report that President Obama and British Prime Minister David Cameron discussed tapping government oil reserves in an effort to ease rising gas prices.

Presidential spokesman Jay Carney labeled the report as “not accurate,” but Mr. Carney also said energy as a broad “topic area was on the table and was discussed” by the two leaders

Reuters reported that Mr. Obama raised the subject with Mr. Cameron during a meeting at the White House on Wednesday but that no agreement was reached. The report said the two leaders agreed to work together on the issue.

As a presidential candidate in 2008, Mr. Obama advocated releasing oil from the U.S. Strategic Petroleum Reserve (SPR) as gasoline prices approached $4 per gallon. Now that the nationwide average is again near that level, Mr. Obama is under both economic and political pressure to take action to lower the price at the pump.

But Mr. Obama almost certainly would come under fire from Republicans for acting out of political convenience. Many Republicans blame the president for high energy costs, arguing that he is too concerned about the environment on matters such as the proposed Keystone oil pipeline that would run from Canada to the Gulf of Mexico.

The president’s job approval rating has dipped in the past month as gas prices have reached a nationwide average of about $3.80 per gallon, and he receives very negative marks from voters over his handling of the issue.

The president, in a speech in suburban Maryland on Thursday, repeated his oft-stated contention that there is no “silver bullet” to reducing gas prices and that he is promoting strategies to reduce America’s dependence on foreign oil while diversifying other domestic sources of energy.

The SPR, the world’s largest strategic reserve, can hold as much as 727 million barrels of oil, which represents about a month’s worth of U.S. consumption.

Last June, when the revolution in Libya was blamed in part for rising prices, Energy Secretary Steven Chu announced that the U.S. would lead an international effort to tap petroleum reserves, including dipping into the SPR to replace some of the lost oil production.

At the time, the 28 nations that make up the International Energy Agency, which was formed to respond to major disruptions in oil supply, agreed to release a total of 60 million barrels of oil. Half of that was to come from the United States.

Presidents can tap the SPR at their discretion. President George H.W. Bush did so in 1991 during Operation Desert Storm, and President George W. Bush also did in 2005 after Hurricane Katrina.

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