The Obama administration is reviving talks over the possible release of U.S. emergency oil supplies as the price of crude oil tops $95 a barrel, an administration official said.
The talks are in early stages and a final decision appears far from imminent, the official said. But the rising price of crude, along with increases in gasoline, is raising fears that high fuel costs could damage an already sensitive economy.
The average price of gasoline has reached $3.70, up from $3.40 a month ago, according to the AAA Fuel Gauge. The price of oil, meanwhile, settled at $95.60 a barrel Thursday, reaching a new three-month high.
A White House spokesman declined to comment on the issue.
The Strategic Petroleum Reserve is a 700-million-barrel stockpile of oil to be used in case of supply disruptions. The Obama administration last released oil reserves in 2011 as part of a coordinated effort to offset drops in oil production in war-torn Libya.
The administration is also reaching out to ally countries to discuss the possibility of a coordinated release of emergency oil supplies, the official said.
If President Barack Obama moved forward with a sale of emergency oil, Republicans are likely to criticize the move. In the past, Republicans have said the Strategic Petroleum Reserve should only be used in times of severe supply disruptions.
Such a move by the administration is also likely to intensify the debate over the Keystone XL, a 1,700-mile oil pipeline from Canada that has been temporarily blocked by the Obama administration.
The White House last considered a release of strategic reserves last spring, when oil prices were trading near $110 a barrel. The idea was shelved when oil prices fell.
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