* No final decision yet-Chu
* Reserve tapped last year during Libyan crisis
(Adds details and background)
By Roberta Rampton
WASHINGTON, Feb 28 The United States is
considering a release of oil from its strategic reserves in an
attempt to stem the surging price of gasoline, Energy Secretary
Steven Chu told reporters on Tuesday.
No final decision has been made on releasing oil from the
U.S. Strategic Petroleum Reserve (SPR), Chu said, noting the
reserves are intended to be used during times of oil supply
The United States last tapped into its reserves in 2011 in
coordination with other Western nations when Libya's oil
production dropped because of war and prices surged, threatening
the shaky global economy.
The Obama administration is now under pressure to release
stocks again because tensions around Iran's nuclear program have
propelled oil markets -- and the price of gasoline -- higher
ahead of the 2012 presidential elections.
"We're very concerned about what's happening in Iran. So
we're working with the IEA," Chu said outside a hearing on
Capitol Hill, referring to the International Energy Agency.
The U.S. government is working with the IEA to monitor
global oil supplies and demand "in our normal course of
business," Energy Department spokeswoman Jen Stutsman clarified.
"The Secretary was not implying that we are working specifically
with the IEA on a potential release from the SPR."
The United States and other members of the IEA coordinated a
release of a total of 60 million barrels of oil stocks last year
in response to the Libyan disruption.
Asked whether the Obama administration would make its
decision based on prices or supplies, Chu said "there are many
factors" in deliberations.
"But remember that the fundamental reason why we have an SPR
is to deal with an interruption in supply," he said.
(Reporting by Roberta Rampton)