WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. President Barack Obama discussed conditions on world oil markets during a video conference on Thursday with French President Nicolas Sarkozy, the White House said, but declined to say if they talked about the release of strategic reserves.
“The president and President Sarkozy agreed to continue their consultations about the tightness in global oil markets, in line with previous conversations,” White House press secretary Jay Carney said during a briefing.
Oil markets are on red alert for a release from strategic reserves to ease supply shocks after French ministers disclosed last month that the United States had held talks with the British and the French about such possible action.
Asked repeatedly if the leaders’ had discussed a release from strategic reserves, Carney flatly declined to comment.
“I simply have no more information about that subject, no announcements to make on that subject today,” he said.
The high cost of crude oil has driven up the price of U.S. gasoline since the start of the year, fanning concern that this could dent the gradual U.S. economic recovery and do real harm to Obama’s hopes for re-election on November 6.
British sources said earlier in March that London was prepared to cooperate with Washington on an oil release.
French Prime Minister Francois Fillon said on March 29 that “prospects are good for agreement between the United States and Europe” on a joint release of strategic petroleum reserves.
No such agreement has been reached and the U.S. continues to consult with others of the 28-nation International Energy Agency to determine whether a release is needed, according to U.S. Deputy Energy Secretary Dan Poneman, who spoke to reporters on the sidelines of a conference in Washington on Wednesday.
“There are many factors we have been analyzing including inventories and production,” Poneman said. “And we are consulting our colleagues at the IEA to figure out what makes sense going forward.”
With U.S. demand for motor fuel dropping, domestic crude inventories rose by nearly 19 million barrels in the three-week period through April 6, increasing by more than 5 percent and potentially lessening the need for any strategic petroleum reserve (SPR) release.
Oil prices have also fallen, and U.S. gasoline prices retreated this week for the first time since late January, government data shows.
The IEA on Thursday said that world oil prices may soon fall further since the oil market has recent broken a two-year cycle of tightening supply conditions, as demand weakens and OPEC kingpin Saudi Arabia boosts its own production.
Reporting By Alister Bull and Josh Schneyer; Editing by Eric Walsh