President Says He's Concerned About All-Time High Gas Prices

MARCH 24, 2004 - Posted at 11:47 a.m. CDT

WHITE HOUSE - The White House says President Bush is "concerned" about skyrocketing gas prices, which are currently at all-time highs.

But it's rejecting calls to stop filling the nation's Strategic Petroleum Reserve as a way of easing shortages.  Press Secretary Scott McClellan says the reserve needs to be available as a hedge against supply disruptions.

McClellan says the administration is having "on-going" talks with oil-producing countries about supplies of crude.  But he says ultimately, markets must set prices for oil and gasoline.

In the meantime he's calling on Congress to pass Bush's energy bill, which would encourage domestic production.

A number of lawmakers have urged a halt to purchases for the Strategic Reserve, noting that private oil inventories are well below average.  And some Democrats want to release oil from the reserve, which is currently close to its maximum capacity of 700 billion barrels.

(Copyright 2004 by The Associated Press.  All Rights Reserved.)