Bodman: Without OPEC Production Hike, US Will Make Do

U.S. Energy Secretary Samuel Bodman Tuesday suggested that the U.S. would be able to make do if members of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries decline to boost oil production when they meet this week.

If OPEC nations fail to raise production, "then that's what they decide and we'll move forward," Bodman told reporters after speaking at a U.S. Chamber of Commerce event on biofuels.

OPEC prepares to meet Friday amid questions about whether it will boost output. The U.S. economy is struggling with record high oil prices while simultaneously fighting off a recession, and increased production would help the U.S. if it led to a decline in oil prices.

"I think that some increase in supply is warranted," Bodman said. "I'm hopeful that it would contribute to some reduction in prices."

Earlier, he had told the Chamber of Commerce that "the pain of high energy prices is very real and very significant for many Americans."

Weakness in the U.S. economy could potentially lower demand for oil and leave oil-producing nations with more inventory than they want. But "these things tend to change with time," Bodman said. "I would not put too great a stock in my own forecasts."

He also took issue with Sen. Hillary Clinton, D-N.Y., who during a debate in Nevada said it was "pathetic" for President George W. Bush to ask Middle East nations to lower prices. "I didn't think it was pathetic," Bodman said. "Mrs. Clinton is running for president and therefore I excuse whatever statements she made."

Bodman said that "what we collectively need to do" is work on "increasing the diversity of supply" and the "diversity of suppliers and a diversity of routes to get access to" those materials.

Copyright (c) 2008 Dow Jones & Company, Inc.