US May Tap Oil Reserve If Saudi Exports Disrupted

The U.S. government would consider releasing oil from the strategic petroleum reserve if a terrorist attack disrupted Saudi Arabian oil exports, a Department of Energy spokesman said Thursday.

'It's a possibility if an attack affected our energy supply to a significant degree,' DOE spokesman Drew Malcolm said.

DOE's statement comes on the heels of a comments earlier in the day from Claude Mandil, head of the International Energy Agency, to call on the group's member governments to release their emergency supplies of crude oil in the event of a terrorist attack in Saudi Arabia that disrupted the country's oil supplies.

Attacks this month by Islamic militants on oil-related facilities in Saudi Arabia have raised market fears that militants will eventually strike the nation's oil supplies. 'In the case of a supply disruption in Saudi Arabia, we would use the emergency system,' Mandil said.

The 26-nation IEA, which includes the U.S. and most other industrialized nations, had an agreement with the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries under which the IEA wouldn't ask member countries to dip into their stockpiles during emergencies so long as OPEC maintained global oil supplies.

OPEC recently pledged to add 2.5 million barrels a day of extra production by Aug. 1, with most of the group's extra supply capacity coming from Saudi Arabia.

While DOE manages the strategic petroleum reserve, the president ultimately decides whether it should be tapped in the event of an oil shortage.

Asked whether the U.S. would respond similarly to the IEA in the event of a Saudi oil disruption, the president's office reiterated the position it has taken in the face of numerous calls by Democrats for the government to stop filling the reserve and move that oil into the domestic market.

Oil from the reserve should only be used 'in the event of a major emergency and not for market manipulation or price manipulation,' White House spokesman Trent Duffy said Thursday.
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