The White House said Monday it was considering its options as to whether it should open the nation’s Strategic Petroleum Reserve as unrest in the Middle East sent prices for crude oil and refined products like diesel and gasoline through the roof.
Diesel surged 15.5 cents last week to $3.871 per gallon. It was the second week in a row that the increase was as big as any since 2008. In the 15 consecutive weeks of recent price increases, diesel has risen 22.4 percent, or 70.9 cents, according to figures from the U.S. Energy Information Administration.
Crude oil futures have been trading at or near $100 per barrel for more than a week and settled at $104.42 per barrel on Friday on the New York Mercantile Exchange with every indication they could well go higher, trading at $104.87 at mid-day Monday.
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Retail gasoline rose 32.7 cents between Feb. 18 and March 4, when it reached $3.50 per gallon, according to the Lundberg Survey of approximately 2,500 gas stations. It was the second-largest two-week rise in gasoline pump prices ever.
President Obama’s chief of staff William Daley said on a Sunday talk show the White House was considering opening the U.S. Strategic Petroleum Reserve, which holds 727 million barrels of oil, or about 38 days of consumption. It has been tapped only rarely since its creation after the Arab oil embargo in the 1970s. It was last used in 2005 following Hurricane Katrina.
“It’s an option we are considering,” the president’s press secretary Jay Carney said Monday. “But there are a number of factors that go into it and it is not price-based alone.”
“But I think the point that we want to make is that we're very cognizant of the fact that Americans are experiencing a sharp rise in prices at the gas pump, and that affects them and their family budgets. And we are monitoring that very closely. Meanwhile, we are in discussions with oil-producing countries, as well as the IEA, about the various options that are available in the global system to deal with a major disruption, should that occur,” Carney said.
As of Monday, average retail diesel prices were highest on the West Coast at $4.046 per gallon, up 15.4 cents from a week earlier and up $1.043 from a year ago, according to the EIA.
The lowest prices were on the Gulf Coast, where they averaged $3.812 per gallon, up 15.6 cents from a week earlier and up 93.9 cents from a year ago.
The biggest jump was a 16.2 cent increase to $3.823 per gallon in the Midwest, leaving diesel up 95.2 cents from a year ago.
The smallest gain was 14.4 cents to $3.908 per gallon on the East Coast, up 97.6 cents from a year ago.
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