WASHINGTON, (Reuters) - U.S. House Democratic lawmakers criticized President George W. Bush on Wednesday, May 30, for not being tougher with OPEC, and urged him to pressure the cartel and other oil-producing nations to increase their crude oil output by 3.5 million barrels per day.
The lawmakers said an increase in OPEC production would help drive down crude oil prices and ultimately lower gasoline costs for consumers at the pump.
"We believe that you should personally intervene prior to that meeting to request an immediate increase of 3.5 million barrels in OPEC production, as well as commensurate increases in non-OPEC production," the Democrats told Bush in a letter, which was signed by 77 lawmakers from the House of Representatives.
Global oil demand averages about 77 million barrels a day.
OPEC meets in Vienna next week, but recently ministers of the cartel's member nations have indicated that OPEC production levels would not change.
During last year's U.S. presidential campaign, Bush said he would convince OPEC to "open your spigots."
"We have been greatly disappointed that thus far your administration has not moved more aggressively to press OPEC and non-OPEC producers to increase their crude oil production," lawmakers said.
The Democrats criticized Vice President Dick Cheney's recent comments that a lack of domestic refining capacity, and not OPEC, was to blame for high U.S. fuel prices.
"Vice President Cheney's absolution of OPEC for any responsibility for today's high prices is truly astounding," the lawmakers said.
U.S. crude oil prices have hovered around $30 a barrel for several months now, supported by two OPEC production cuts totaling 2.5 million barrels a day earlier this year.
"Instead of defending OPEC, the administration should provide consumers with relief from high gas prices by convincing oil producing nations to increase production," said Rep. Martin Frost of Texas, who chairs the Democratic Caucus Energy Task Force.
Gasoline prices have hit record levels due to strong consumer demand at the pump, higher crude oil costs and tight fuel supplies.
U.S. gasoline prices turned upward over the last week, rising 1.7 cents to $1.704 a gallon, the Energy Department reported on Tuesday.
Pump prices had fallen the week before after climbing to record highs for two weeks in a row. The latest fuel price is up 17 cents from a year ago.
The national price truckers pay for diesel fuel increased 3.5 cents to $1.529 a gallon, up 10 cents from a year ago and the highest level since last December.
By Tom Doggett
© 2001 Mena Report (www.menareport.com)