DOE's Chu 'Pleased' with OPEC Decision

WASHINGTON (Dow Jones Newswires), Mar. 16, 2009

U.S. Energy Secretary Steven Chu said on Sunday that he was "pleased" that OPEC decided to leave output steady, saying that the decision will help stave off ups and downs in prices.

The decision by the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries came amid a global economic downturn that has reduced demand for oil. Cutting production and pushing the price of oil too high could have hindered a recovery, even though many nations in the 12-member cartel have budgets that assume higher prices.

"While OPEC's actions are just one factor among many that go into the market price of oil, I'm pleased that there won't be further production cuts - which will could help to avoid oil price volatility," Chu said in a statement. "However, I continue to believe that we should stay focused on what our country can do to become energy independent - ending our dependence on foreign oil and investing in new clean energy sources that will put Americans to work and address the global climate crisis."

The Energy Department issued the release hours after OPEC's announcement. It wasn't clear whether it intended to use the word "could" or "will," and apparently inadvertently left both words in the prepared quotation.

U.S. President Barack Obama is hoping to steer the U.S. away from fossil fuels and toward greater reliance on renewable energy. Battery-powered vehicles and electricity generated from wind and solar power are among the solutions he is promoting.

In the statement, Chu said that the U.S. consumes 20% of the world's oil supply. With OPEC producing about 30% of oil supply, "even a modest U.S. improvement in fuel efficiency or greater use of mass transit could have a much greater impact on prices than OPEC production decisions," according to the statement released by the U.S. Energy Department.

The U.S. Energy Secretary has been calling for global cooperation in the development of "clean coal" technology. He has been meeting with foreign ministers to discuss how nations can collaborate on the development of the technology, which aims to capture emissions from coal-fired plants and store the emissions underground.

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