US stockpile an option for oil disruption-Goolsbee

Tue Mar 8, 2011 11:16am EST

* Supply disruptions a factor in tapping reserves-Goolsbee

* US oil reserve only tapped handful of times since 1970s

WASHINGTON, March 8 (Reuters) - White House economist Austan Goolsbee said on Tuesday that tapping the U.S. emergency oil stockpile oil was one option the Obama administration has to respond to supply disruptions that sent world oil prices soaring.

Fighting in Libya has idled around 1 million barrels per day of oil exports and Kuwait's oil minister said the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries is considering boosting production.

The Strategic Petroleum Reserve (SPR) is "an option that we have," Goolsbee told a National Association for Business Economics conference in Washington.

"The SPR exists to deal with large international supply disruptions. That is why we created it. That is mainly the criteria we use," said Goolsbee, who heads the group of three economists that advises the White House on economic policy.

Goolsbee's comments came one day after the administration said that the price of oil was one of the factors that would be used to determine whether the United States would tap its oil reserves. [ID:nN07106400]

Mass unrest in the Middle East has sent the price of oil over $100 a barrel, threatening to undermine the slow economic recovery in the United States. [O/R]

"We are monitoring the situation," Goolsbee said, though he added that the White House's Council of Economic Advisers was not the group that makes the decision to tap reserves.

The United States has only tapped the petroleum reserve a handful of times since it was created in the mid-1970s in response to the Arab oil embargo. The reserve holds 727 million barrels of oil or about 38 days of consumption.

(Reporting by Rachelle Younglai; Editing by Lisa Shumaker)

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