Obama urged to say he will release oil from US Strategic Petroleum Reserve

Three Democratic lawmakers are urging President Barack Obama to tell the nation – and Iran – that he is ready to tap the United States’ Strategic Petroleum Reserve to push back against rising gas prices.

Congressmen Edward Markey, the top Democrat on the House Natural Resources Committee, and Peter Welch and congresswoman Rosa DeLauro said today that such a statement from Obama could prevent a “runaway increase” in prices, Reuters reported.

"It is essential that the United States have an aggressive strategy for releasing oil from the strategic petroleum reserve to combat the speculators capitalizing on the fear in oil markets," the lawmakers said in a letter to Obama, Reuters reported.

US retail gasoline prices have risen to $3.58 a gallon on average, due to Iran’s standoff with the West over its nuclear program, the Associated Press reported. Today, Brent crude oil rose to $122.90 per barrel in London and West Texas Intermediate crude rose to $106.28 per barrel in New York.

The reserve holds about 696 million barrels of oil, according to Reuters.

According to Bloomberg News:

The US released 30 million gallons from the reserve during several weeks in July and August last year under an International Energy Agency effort to ease shortages of Middle East supply. The US has withdrawn oil 18 times since 1985, including in 2008 after hurricanes Gustav and Ike struck the Gulf Coast.

It’s not a move House Republicans, who traditionally oppose using the oil reserves to curb gas prices, want to see, Bloomberg News reported. "This is a time-honored ruse used by Washington Democrats who oppose more American-made energy every time gas prices rise," said Michael Steel, spokesman for House Speaker John Boehner. "The SPR is for severe supply disruptions, for example, if Iran blocks the Straits of Hormuz."

The Republicans are also hoping to use painful gas prices to make the case in this election year that Obama’s energy strategies aren’t working.

More from GlobalPost: Rising gas prices may harm Obama's re-election chances

Obama is slated to discuss gasoline prices during a trip to Florida on Thursday, Reuters reported.

More from GlobalPost: EIA Annual Energy Outlook: US reducing dependence on oil imports

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