Obama urges oil producers to increase output

WASHINGTON Tue Apr 26, 2011 6:50pm EDT

A gas nozzle is used to pump petrol at a station in New York February 22, 2011. REUTERS/Shannon Stapleton

A gas nozzle is used to pump petrol at a station in New York February 22, 2011.

Credit: Reuters/Shannon Stapleton

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - President Barack Obama on Tuesday urged world oil producers to lift crude output as he sought to deflect public anger over high gasoline prices that is hurting his popularity among voters.

U.S. fuel prices have become a hot button political issue after pushing toward $4 a gallon. Gasoline futures hit 33-month highs on Tuesday.

The rising prices at the pump are fueling voter discontent with Obama's leadership, opinion polls show, and could hurt his reelection chances in 2012.

"They need to increase supplies," Obama told CBS affiliate WTKR in Hampton Roads, Virginia. "And obviously there's been some disruptions because of Libya. But we think that they can make it up and we're pushing them to do so."

Calling on producers to pump more oil during times of high crude prices was a strategy also used by the administrations of former presidents George W. Bush and Bill Clinton.

Obama, until now, had focused on trying to reduce oil demand, but he made clear in his comments on Tuesday that increasing output was also part of the solution.

"It's the first time the Obama administration has done this, but it's not because they have figured out any new strategy on trying to fight high oil prices," said Tim Evans, energy analyst at Citi Futures Perspective in New York.

"It's because it's the first time they've seen a 30 percent jump in oil prices over a few months."

Earlier on Tuesday, the president sent a letter to Congress urging it to end tax breaks for oil and gas companies.

Ramping up the pressure on the companies, the Obama administration's top law enforcement official, Attorney General Eric Holder, told reporters he saw some "disturbing" things in the energy markets.

He said this justified the formation of a task force unveiled last week to probe possible fraud and manipulation of gasoline prices.

Obama's top economic adviser, Gene Sperling, also sought on Tuesday to reassure markets that the administration was taking the issue of high prices seriously.

He reinforced the White House's message, saying that oil companies are getting an easy ride from U.S. taxpayers.

Obama, in the letter to congressional leaders, hailed what he called bipartisan support for ending the tax breaks.

But Republicans, who feel rising gas prices could help them defeat Obama in the 2012 election, said the approach would "raise taxes and increase the price at the pump."

This opposition contradicted signs of openness on Monday from the top Republican in the House of Representatives, Speaker John Boehner [ID:nN25223852]. Boehner was sharply critical of Obama's policies after the letter was released.

(Additional reporting by Jeff Mason, Steve Holland, Timothy Gardner, and Jeremy Pelofsky; Editing by Laura MacInnis)

We welcome comments that advance the story through relevant opinion, anecdotes, links and data. If you see a comment that you believe is irrelevant or inappropriate, you can flag it to our editors by using the report abuse links. Views expressed in the comments do not represent those of Reuters. For more information on our comment policy, see http://blogs.reuters.com/fulldisclosure/2010/09/27/toward-a-more-thoughtful-conversation-on-stories/
Comments (21)
10_Tomas wrote:
Outragous! a tax hike on the consumer. This guy must go and Boner can go with him.

Apr 26, 2011 1:50pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
10_tomas sell your ugly red neck truck… maybe you can be more sensible…

the problem in this country is nobody wants to take the burden to be responsible for the mess we created by overspending and exporting our sick democracy to other nations through our military… we need to save more, we need to save more… this is that simple… cutting taxes is not a solution also for middle income or rich people… according to me everybody needs to pay their own share… then we will be a happy country again… anyone who earns money in this country needs to pay taxes… being poor or rich is not important…

Apr 26, 2011 2:36pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
Began wrote:
Why is ‘big oil’ receiving tax breaks while recording record profits?

These tax breaks were meant to increase domestic exploring and production, however the oil companies just considered them a ‘gift’ !

Apr 26, 2011 2:40pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
This discussion is now closed. We welcome comments on our articles for a limited period after their publication.