WASHINGTON, (Reuters) - The Bush administration appeared to reverse course late on Thursday, May 10, blaming OPEC for the suffering of U.S. consumers who are paying record high gasoline prices at the pump.
Energy Secretary Spencer Abraham said OPEC was at fault for high fuel prices, conflicting with comments made earlier in the week by Vice President Dick Cheney that a shortage of U.S. refining capacity, not the cartel, has caused gasoline prices to soar.
"Right now, with respect to gasoline, we've got a supply problem. OPEC has reduced production, that constrained supply, that raised prices," Abraham said in an interview on CNN.
He said the United States needs to be more independent from foreign oil sources, and the Bush administration's comprehensive national energy policy to be unveiled next week "will head us in that direction."
Abraham's comments about OPEC are at odds with Cheney's statement on Tuesday on the administration's attitude toward the cartel.
"We've worked with OPEC...the fact is today we can't blame the problem on OPEC in terms of current gasoline prices," Cheney said.
OPEC Secretary-General Ali Rodriguez had praised the Bush administration earlier on Thursday for not blaming oil producers for U.S. fuel prices, which hit a record $1.70 a gallon this week.
"Over the past few weeks, several leading U.S. administration officials have recognized the reasons behind the present U.S. difficulties," Rodriguez said in an interview released by the official OPEC news agency.
"They have gone out of their way to point out that OPEC's policies are not to blame for the current situation and we welcome their sincerity with the U.S. public," Rodriguez said.
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