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Chu Says U.S. Considers Oil Reserve Amid Iran ‘Concern’

The Obama administration is considering the option of tapping the Strategic Petroleum Reserve amid concerns that Iran will interrupt oil supplies and push gasoline prices higher, Energy Secretary Steven Chu said.

“We’re very concerned about what’s happening in Iran, and so we’re working with” the International Energy Agency, Chu told reporters today after a congressional hearing in Washington.

Later, in an e-mail clarifying Chu’s remarks, Jen Stutsman, an Energy Department spokeswoman, said “the secretary was not implying that we are working specifically with the IEA on a potential release” from the reserve. “As the administration has said repeatedly, we are not taking any options off the table,” she said.

“As we do in our normal course of business, we continue to work with the IEA to monitor global oil supplies and demand,” Stutsman said.

Three House Democrats including Representative Edward Markey of Massachusetts last week urged the Obama administration to use the emergency inventories “to combat the rapid price escalations” in gasoline, which they blamed on “speculation.” Congressional Republicans, the energy industry, and some Democrats oppose the move, saying the reserve must be kept available in case of supply disruptions, including by Iran.

Earlier today, at a separate event in Washington, Interior Secretary Ken Salazar said using oil from the reserve is among the options President Obama is considering. “No decisions have been made,” Salazar said.

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