RENEE MONTAGNE, host:
This is MORNING EDITION from NPR News. I'm Renee Montagne.
With most Americans paying $3 a gallon for gas, President Bush turned a speech on energy this morning into an announcement of several emergency measures. Among other things, the president said he would halt the delivery of oil to the strategic petroleum reserve, freeing up a little more crude for gasoline refining. But the president warned there would be no overnight turnaround for prices at the pump. Joining me to talk about the president's speech is White House correspondent Don Gonyea. And Don, other presidents have actually taken some oil out of the strategic reserve when prices were high, and that--in attempts to ease market supply.
DON GONYEA reporting:
MONTAGNE: Is that a nod in the same direction? Is that what President Bush is doing?
GONYEA: It is, to some degree. And the president himself--while often resisting the call to just turn the spigots on and release oil from the reserve--did, in fact, do that himself after Hurricane Katrina and the spike in gasoline prices we saw back last fall. This, though, is a little bit different. Instead of taking money out of the reserve, he is essentially halting deposits into the reserve. It's, I guess, perhaps a little bit more modest and makes sure that the reserve stays at a certain level. And again, he justifies it by saying that we have enough oil in that strategic reserve to handle any problems, any emergencies, any disruptions--so he's comfortable doing this now. Again, there's a lot of dispute as to whether or not this will have any real impact on the price of gasoline this summer.
But what the president said, and this is a quote from the speech today, "Every little bit helps."
MONTAGNE: Another big issue for consumers is the suspicion that someone is gauging them in this deal. Let's listen to a little of what the president had to say.
President GEORGE W. BUSH: Americans understand, by and large, that the price of crude oil is going up, and that prices are going up. But what they don't want and will not accept is manipulation of the market.
MOTAGNE: Don, what action is the president taking to stop price gauging?
GONYEA: He is not saying there is price gauging at this point. I need to point that out, but he is mindful that a lot of people are seeing these high oil company and energy company profits, and that, they put two and two together, and they see a problem that the general public--he is saying, and the FTC, the Federal Trade Commission has released a letter today that calls on all states to really look closely and see if they can find any examples of price gauging, that the federal government, the FTC is looking into it as well. Mostly, the message here is that that sort of thing will not be tolerated. So, it's an attempt to put the public's mind at ease.
MOTAGNE: There were other elements in the president's approach for the longer term.
GONYEA: Yes. And, you know, he has often talked about long term easing American's dependence on foreign oil. In fact, interestingly, he started this speech by talking about how that dependence on foreign oil really reduces U.S. influence and clout in parts of the world where, you know, where there's unrest, and where there are problems--particularly, obviously, the Middle East. So, he again talked about creating more supply. He talked about opening up the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge up in Alaska for drilling. He talked about greater development and greater investment, those sorts of things, to ease the problem long term.
MONTAGNE: And what, Americans seem to love that?
GONYEA: Well, here's the--you know, this was not an oil company, an oil exec audience he was talking to. This was the, let me get the name of the group--it was the Renewable Fuels Association. So these are groups that are promoting ethanol and clean diesel and hydrogen and things like that. So this particular group, if people were listening to this speech, they heard big applause at frequent points, so this was an audience that was very receptive to this kind of a message from the president.
MONTAGNE: NPR's White House correspondent Don Gonyea. Thanks very much.
GONYEA: My pleasure.
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