Putin Assures Bush on Oil Production
As oil prices rose, Russian President Vladimir Putin told President Bush on Monday that Russian oil companies are increasing oil production and exports and will continue to do so, the White House said.
"He said he recognizes that ... he doesn't need to be causing conditions such that it hurts consuming nations," Bush said here at his ranch after meeting with top defense advisers. "He's wise about that. But we've got a lot of countries beginning to use more energy and we haven't done a good job of increasing supply."
Oil prices are surging, and the higher that crude prices climb, the more risk that energy costs pose to the U.S. economy. Oil prices, which had been setting a string of record highs, retreated Friday to close at $47.60, down $1.10 from an all-time high of $48.70 set on Thursday.
Many analysts believe the U.S. economy could still be jolted by oil prices above $50 per barrel with the lingering concerns about possible supply disruptions in Iraq and elsewhere.
As he's done many times before, Bush called on Congress to pass new energy legislation.
"The best thing is to come up with a comprehensive energy strategy that encourages conservation, encourages environmentally sensitive exploration for natural resources in our own hemisphere," Bush said.
He said the legislation addresses new forms of energy, but Bush added, "admittedly, those aren't going to come on market in time to deal with the current price of oil."
In a 15-minute telephone call, Bush and Putin also "agreed on the need to work together to prevent Iran from developing a nuclear weapons capability," said White House spokesman Scott McClellan, with the president at his ranch.
"President Putin also noted that Russian oil companies are increasing production and exports and will continue to do so," said McClellan. Putin's comments on increasing Russian production came as world oil prices approach $50 a barrel.
The two leaders also talked about ensuring stability in anticipation of elections in Afghanistan and discussed the situation in Iraq, McClellan said.
Phil Singer, a spokesman for Democrat John Kerry's campaign, criticized the president for continuing to fill the nation's Strategic Petroleum Reserve. The president has said that he views the reserve as a supply for national emergencies.
"Everyone knows high energy prices are hurting the economy except for George W. Bush," Singer said. "With a market spooked by instability in the Middle East, the president should be doing whatever he can to provide relief to families, but his refusal to stop filling the Strategic Petroleum Reserve sends a dangerous signal to the market which continues to drive up prices."