Biden says U.S., partners working on global oil reserve release

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WASHINGTON, Feb 24 (Reuters) - President Joe Biden said on Thursday the United States is working with other countries on a combined release of additional oil from global strategic crude reserves, and a source with knowledge of the talks said the plan was in the "early stages."

Prices for international crude benchmark Brent shot above $105 a barrel after Russia, one of the world's top oil producers, attacked Ukraine. High oil prices have fed inflation as fuel demand recovers from the pandemic.

"We are actively working with countries around the world to elevate collective release from the strategic petroleum reserves of major energy-consuming countries," Biden told reporters. "The United States will release additional barrels of oil as conditions warrant."

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A U.S. source with knowledge of the talks said before Biden spoke: "We are exploring through the IEA," referring to the Paris-based International Energy Agency, which said this week it stands ready to tap reserves. "We are on Day 1 (of Russia's attacks), so still working on timing, et cetera," for the oil release, the source said.

The IEA, the energy watchdog for developed countries, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The plan would be in addition to a coordinated release of oil stockpiles with China and other Asian consumer countries organized by Washington last November to combat energy inflation. So far, the United States has released about 50 million barrels of oil from its Strategic Petroleum Reserve (SPR) through sales and exchanges, while China has mostly held off from releasing its oil.

The extent to which China, an affiliate of the IEA, is involved in the new plan was not immediately clear.

The White House's National Security Council did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Japan and Australia said on Thursday they were prepared to tap their oil reserves, together with other IEA member nations, if global supplies were hit by the violence in Ukraine. read more

Total oil stocks in IEA nations stood at close to 4.16 billion barrels by the end of December, including 1.5 billion held by governments in emergency reserves, the agency said this week.

In 2011, the last major coordinated oil release, the United States and its IEA allies released a total of 60 million barrels of oil into global markets in response to curtailments in crude output in Libya due to civil war.

The U.S. SPR currently holds about 582.4 million barrels of oil, the lowest level in years, but well above what it is required to hold as an IEA member.

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Reporting by Timothy Gardner and Jarrett Renshaw; additional reporting by Noah Browning in London, Editing by Chizu Nomiyama and David Gregorio

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