WASHINGTON -- With oil prices declining, the White House said Tuesday it's possible President Bush will order the government to put an additional 100,000 barrels of oil a day into emergency stockpiles.
While some details remain to be worked out, the Energy Department proposal is awaiting final approval from the president, which is expected soon, according to administration officials.
"The president has not made any decisions," White House press secretary Ari Fleischer told reporters Tuesday. "It is a possibility."
Private economists said the move, in addition to boosting emergency reserves, will signal U.S. intentions to help stabilize world oil prices at a time when OPEC producers -- including Saudi Arabia -- have been worried about the sharp drop in global demand.
The proposal calls for funneling an additional 70 million barrels of crude into the government's Strategic Petroleum Reserve over the next two years, with most -- if not all -- of the oil to be provided by companies in lieu of federal royalty payments.
While Congress would have to provide money for any additional direct purchases, an executive order could allow "royalty-in-kind" purchases immediately.
The strategic reserve, a string of salt caverns along the Gulf Coast at the Texas-Louisiana border, currently has 543 million barrels of oil, with the capacity to hold 700 million barrels.