Bush Warns of Disruption to U.S. Oil Supply

President Bush acknowledged in a news conference Thursday there would be a temporary disruption in the nation's oil supply, and he called on the country to conserve energy. "Don't buy gas if you don't need it," Bush said. Meanwhile, conditions continue to worsen in New Orleans, with no relief in sight.

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ALEX CHADWICK, host:

This is DAY TO DAY from NPR West. I'm Alex Chadwick.

A little more than an hour ago, President Bush spoke from the Oval Office, saying that he is appointing his father, the first President Bush, and President Bill Clinton to chair a national fund-raising committee and look after the disaster along the Gulf Coast region. `Hurricane Katrina is truly a national disaster,' the president told the country in remarks before photographers.

President GEORGE W. BUSH: The federal government will do its part, but the private sector needs to do its part, as well. And that's why I've asked Presidents Bush and Clinton to lead a nationwide fund-raising effort to help the victims of Hurricane Katrina.

CHADWICK: That's President Bush, speaking from the Oval Office.

Don Gonyea joins us from Washington, White House correspondent. Don, what else did the president say there?

DON GONYEA reporting:

You know, really, this little photo op that we just had at the White House--in the Oval Office, as you said, was part of what we're seeing as a pretty intense effort, an organize effort, on the part of the White House today to really reassure people, reassure people that everything that can be done in response to Hurricane Katrina is being done. And the president talked a bit about what he wants these two former president to do, his father and Bill Clinton, which is to make a personal appeal to individual Americans to get them to contribute, because money raised through this sort of an effort, which is quite apart from any federal contribution that will be made, can play a major role in helping the Gulf Coast region (technical difficulties) and starting to get back on its feet.

And interesting, too, Alex, that--we've been down this path before with these two presidents. Recall that they were the two who really worked together, and formed a very serious friendship, when they raised money for tsunami relief earlier in the year.

CHADWICK: Right.

GONYEA: And that worked so well that it only made perfect sense, from the point of view of this White House, to bring them back again. It also serves the purpose of really demonstrating that this above politics, a bipartisan effort that all Americans really can and should get behind.

CHADWICK: All right. We have another clip from the president's remarks today. Here it is.

Pres. BUSH: The steps we're taking will help to address the problem of availability, but it's not going to solve it. Americans should be prudent in their use of energy during the course of the next few weeks. Don't buy gas if you don't need it.

CHADWICK: I heard the president say that--I was watching these remarks which were broadcast on television, and I just thought, `What an extraordinary thing for the president to be saying.'

GONYEA: Indeed. And it is a call for conservation, mindful of the shortages that are out there, shortages that are made worse by the fact that these refineries have been knocked out by the storm in the Gulf region. We have seen just in the past 36, 48 hours now the price of gas just blow past the three-dollar mark, approaching $4, and it could get higher. The president did say that's just temporary. And at the start, we heard him saying steps are being taken. He's called on the EPA to ease some fuel pollution requirements to let more fuel into the country and fuel that is designated for certain areas to be able to be sold in, say, big cities. It's all complicated about formula, but it should help with the supply, he is saying.

CHADWICK: Yeah.

GONYEA: But that call to conserve is another thing he's saying that Americans can do beyond contributing cash.

CHADWICK: Don, isn't Mr. Bush going to the area tomorrow?

GONYEA: He is, indeed. He flew over the area on Air Force One yesterday on his way back to Washington from Texas, from his ranch. But he's going to take a chopper ride, a helicopter ride, from Mobile, Alabama, past Biloxi, eventually ending up in New Orleans. And some of this tour will be in the air with governors of the affected states, some of it will be on the ground. Again, it's to let him see firsthand what he's dealing with. It's also to lend just moral support to victims and those who are working on the relief effort.

CHADWICK: Don Gonyea, White House correspondent for NPR. Thank you, Don.

GONYEA: My pleasure.

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