- The Washington Times - Saturday, January 3, 2009


U.S. building oil reserves

Taking advantage of low oil prices, the government is resuming purchases of crude oil for its emergency stockpile.

The Energy Department said Friday that it will seek contracts and make other arrangements for the delivery of nearly 20 million barrels of oil to the government’s Strategic Petroleum Reserve in the coming months. The reserve, a system of caverns on the Louisiana-Texas coast, currently holds 702 million barrels of crude.

The department said it will buy 12 million barrels to replace the oil that was sold from the reserve in 2005 to meet shortages after Hurricane Katrina disrupted oil production in the Gulf of Mexico. Another 2.18 million barrels will be bought to make up for oil that didn’t go into the reserve last year after Congress halted purchases because of high prices and tight supplies. The ban expired at the end of the year. The government also is calling for the return of about 5.5 million barrels of oil loaned to refiners last year after hurricanes Gustav and Ike disrupted supplies.

These actions, along with purchases previously planned for 2009 of about 25,000 barrels a day, will bring the government reserve to its storage capacity of 727 million barrels by the end of the 2009, the department said. That’s equal to about 70 days of oil imports.

“DOE plans to take advantage of the recent sharp decline in crude oil prices to enter the market,” the department said.


Activists demand Burris be seated

CHICAGO | Activists in Illinois are urging state lawmakers to accept Gov. Rod R. Blagojevich’s appointment of former Illinois Attorney General Roland Burris to the U.S. Senate.

Mr. Blagojevich’s action has draw criticism because he faces corruption charges of trying to profit from the Senate-seat appointment. He denies the allegations.

About a dozen black activists said during a Chicago news conference Friday that despite the legal cloud, the governor has the legal right to appoint Mr. Burris, whom they called highly qualified.

William Walls of the Committee for a Better Chicago warns that if Illinois Secretary of State Jesse White doesn’t certify the appointment and if Sen. Richard J. Durbin, Illinois Democrat, doesn’t support Mr. Burris, then activists will work to defeat them in upcoming elections.


Firms invited to design embassy

The State Department said Friday that it has selected nine prominent American architectural firms, including at least two whose principals have won the prestigious Pritzker Architecture Prize, to submit concepts for a new U.S. Embassy building in Britain.

The department, particularly since the imposition of new security rules after the 1998 bombings of the U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania, often has been criticized for commissioning bland, fortress-like buildings to serve as offices for diplomats abroad.

But the nine companies chosen to compete on the London project, to be built south of the River Thames in an area far less fashionable than the current Grosvenor Square, are known for modernist and innovative designs. They will produce conceptual drawings that will be judged by a jury that will select four or five firms to produce formal designs, the department said.

Among the best-known firms of those making the first cut are New York-based Richard Meier and Partners, whose founder won the Pritzker Prize in 1984, and Santa Monica, Calif.-based Morphosis Architects, whose co-founder Thom Mayne won the Pritzker in 2005.

Other firms in the running are Gwathmey, Siegel and Associates of New York; Kallmann, McKinnell and Wood of Boston; KieranTimberlake of Philadelphia; Kohn, Pedersen, Fox Associates of New York; PEI Cobb Freed and Partners of New York; Perkins and Will of Chicago; and Skidmore, Owings and Merrill of Chicago.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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