White House Rejects Dem Plan Linking Arms Deals with OPEC Output

WASHINGTON, April 24, 2008 (Dow Jones Newswires)

The White House said Thursday that Senate Democrats are "barking up the wrong tree" by threatening to hold up arms deals with Saudi Arabia and other Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries unless the oil-producing countries agree to increase oil production.

"The last thing that we want to do is increase our dependence on foreign sources of energy," White House spokeswoman Dana Perino said, accusing Democrats of blocking efforts to boost domestic oil and gas production. "Arms deals are not favors that we do for friends, they are in our national strategic interest and something that we work closely with Congress on."

With crude oil prices at record highs and Americans feeling the pinch at the pump, Sens. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., Byron Dorgan, D-N.D., Bob Casey, D-Pa., and Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., are urging President George W. Bush to use leverage with OPEC or put multi-million dollar arms deals in jeopardy with Congress.

"The suggestion they made today is not one we could support," Perino said.

Bush's request for OPEC nations to ramp up their output has so far been ignored, triggering hand-wringing on Capitol Hill. The U.S. is heavily dependent on OPEC nations for imported oil. Last year, almost 45% of U.S. imports of crude oil and related products came from OPEC nations, based on data from the Energy Information Administration.

The White House also continued to push back against pressure to stop filling the nation's Strategic Petroleum Reserve. Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., said that could shave five to 24 cents of the price of a gallon of gas.

The Bush administration routinely says the stockpile shouldn't be used to try to manipulate prices.

"The purpose of the Strategic Petroleum Reserve is to provide the United States with oil in the event of a severe disruption of supply," Perino said. "It has been ineffective when it has been used to manipulate the price in the past, and the administration continues to fill the reserve at a very modest rate and we don't believe the fill rate has a meaningful impact on oil supplies."

WASHINGTON, April 24, 2008 (Dow Jones Newswires)