ABC News' Sunlen Miller reports:
President Obama today said he would be willing to tap into the Strategic Petroleum Reserve in order to help ease pain domestically at the gas pump, but said at this time he is “confident” about the ability to fill gaps in supply without having to do so.
“Should the situation demand it, we are prepared to tap the significant stockpile of oil that we have in the Strategic Petroleum Reserve,” Obama said from the South Court Auditorium. “If we see significant disruptions or, you know, shifts in the market that are so disconcerting to people that we think a strategic petroleum reserve release might be appropriate, then we'll take that step.”
With the national average price of a gallon of gas at $3.54 per gallon, Mr. Obama said the administration will continue to monitor the situation closely – keeping “all options on the table” when it comes to supply disruptions. The president indicated that should the reserve need to be tapped, that wheels are already in motion so it would only take several days.
“We have it teed up, so this isn't a situation where it would take a big bureaucracy and several weeks for us to implement. This is something that would take several days.”
The president said though that the nation is not at the point – yet – where tapping the SPR needs to happen, and refused, when asked, to name a price of gas that would trigger the release.
“The global community can manage supply disruptions like this. Other oil-producing nations have committed to filling any gaps.” Obama said, “We are confident about our ability to fill any potential gaps in supply.”
The president said they are also monitoring on the federal level any possible manipulation in the oil markets, and he has instructing the Attorney General to monitor price gouging in order to “make sure that nobody is taking advance of working families at the pump.”
Summoning up images of the gas lines in the 1970’s that led to the creation of the Strategic Petroleum Reserve, the president said this time it’s not about a shortage of supply, even noting that refineries are operating at a fairly full capacity at the moment.
“The problem is a great deal of uncertainty in the oil markets, part of it prompted by the fact that the economy's growing faster in some places than others. Part of it, though, is also uncertainty in terms of what's happening in the Middle East."
The president said that if Libyan oil production was suspected for a significant period of time, they’d still be able to fill that gap.
The president said that the American people are “tired” of the talk from US presidents about gas prices and energy and declared that he doesn’t “want to leave this for the next president.”
“We've been having this conversation for nearly four decades now. Every few years, gas prices go up, politicians pull out the same old political playbook, and then nothing changes. And when prices go back down, we slip back into a trance. And then when prices go up, suddenly we're shocked. I think the American people are tired of that.”