Obama Officials Met Oil Analysts Amid Concerns Prices May Rise

The Obama administration conferred with outside oil-market experts yesterday, as government officials expressed concern about rising crude prices, a person with direct knowledge of the the meeting said.

The discussion focused on the factors influencing global prices now and in the months ahead, the person said. The talks at the White House didn’t bear directly on a release of supplies from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve. The administration hasn’t made a decision on whether to release oil from the reserve, and there was no discussion of any deadline for a decision, according to the person.

Pressure on President Barack Obama to release oil from strategic inventories increased last month after Hurricane Isaac shut production platforms and refineries in and around the Gulf of Mexico, helping to boost gasoline prices. The Interior Department said today that almost 36 percent of Gulf of Mexico oil production remains closed.

Light, sweet crude oil for October delivery rose 94 cents, or 1 percent, to $96.47 a barrel at 1:17 p.m. on the New York Mercantile Exchange. Brent crude oil was trading at $114.20 a barrel on the London-based ICE Futures Europe exchange.

Regular gasoline at the pump, averaged nationwide, fell 0.1 cent to $3.822 a gallon yesterday, AAA data showed. Prices are up 16.5 cents from a year ago, or 4.5 percent.

Brent Crude

Release of oil from the strategic reserve may be more likely should Brent crude reach $120 a barrel, the person familiar with yesterday’s meeting said. While the administration officials were concerned about the prospects of higher gasoline prices, they weren’t convinced oil will continue to rise.

A White House official confirmed the meeting with outside oil-market experts. The official said these types of meetings happen periodically, and are not specific to any one issue.

White House press secretary Jay Carney has said frequently in recent weeks that “all options” are on the table, including the release of oil from strategic inventories, to ease prices if they increase too much.

On Aug. 31, the U.S. Energy Department agreed to lend 1 million barrels of crude from the strategic reserve to Marathon Petroleum Corp. to resolve a short-term supply shortage caused by Isaac.

G-7 Statement

The Group of Seven nations on Aug. 28 said it’s prepared to call upon the International Energy Agency, a 28-member group of oil-consuming countries, “to take appropriate action to ensure that the market is fully and timely supplied.” IEA nations made available 60 million barrels of crude and oil products in June 2011 after Libyan output was disrupted by an armed uprising against Muammar Qaddafi.

The G-7 is monitoring the threats to their economies posed by high oil prices, according to a joint statement issued on Aug. 28 by the U.S. Treasury Department.

Yesterday’s White House energy meeting was previously reported by Reuters.

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