WASHINGTON (Reuters) - President Barack Obama said on Tuesday he is concerned about oil output around the world as gasoline prices soar and is looking to ease bottlenecks at U.S. refineries to help ease prices at home.
Republicans have slammed Obama for oil prices that are trading at more than $100 a barrel in New York ahead of November’s presidential election, saying he needs to open up more domestic drilling.
“We are concerned about what’s happening in terms of production around the world, it’s not just what’s happening in the Gulf,” Obama said at a White House press conference. He was concerned about oil supply outages in South Sudan and other places, he added.
Last week a U.S. Energy Information Administration report on sanctions on Iran said outages in Yemen, Syria and the North Sea have tightened oil markets over the last two months.
On Tuesday the agency said several outages in countries that are not members of OPEC have intensified over the last two months, leading to an average of about 1 million barrels per day offline in February.
U.S. oil output is growing for the first time in many years as drilling technologies spark a boom in North Dakota and other places.
Still, prices are rising on tension over the sanctions and average U.S. gasoline hit nearly $3.77 a gallon on Tuesday and have risen about a penny a day over the last month.
“I want gas prices lower because they hurt families,” Obama said. “A lot of folks are already operating on the margins right now.”
Obama reiterated there are no quick fixes to high motor fuel prices, but a combination of measures to reduce oil demand, find new crude sources, and develop new alternative fuels can help manage price spikes over the long run.
He said the administration is also paying attention to potential speculation in oil markets and he has asked Attorney General Eric Holder to “reconstitute a task force that is examining that.”
Previous federal probes of oil market speculation have uncovered little evidence of wrongdoing. The Federal Trade Commission concluded last September that high crude oil prices were behind lofty gasoline prices.
Reporting by Timothy Gardner; and Matt Spetalnick; Editing by Sandra Maler