WASHINGTON (AP) -- President Bush is ordering the government to add millions of barrels of oil to its emergency stockpile.
White House press secretary Ari Fleischer said Bush was announcing the increase to the Strategic Oil Reserve on Tuesday, with the size of the increase yet to be determined. "It will depend on the circumstances over the next period of time. I think it's fair to say an increase up to capacity," Fleischer said.
With oil prices declining, the Energy Department last month recommended funneling additional crude into the government's Strategic Petroleum Reserve. The reserve, a string of salt caverns along the Gulf Coast at the Texas-Louisiana border, currently has 544 million barrels of oil, with the capacity to hold 700 million barrels.
An additional 48 million barrels is expected to be put into the reserve by the end of next year under existing arrangements.
"Oil will be added in a deliberate and cost-effective manner anywhere up to the 700-million-barrel full capacity," said White House spokeswoman Claire Buchan.
Private economists have 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.
Congress created the Strategic Petroleum Reserve in 1975 as a response to the 1973 Arab oil embargo. The U.S. reserve of 543 million barrels is enough to make up for the loss of 54 days of imports.
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