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Gore defends release of U.S. oil reserve

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Democratic presidential candidate Al Gore defended Monday the release of U.S. oil reserves before the November election, saying he would not go along with the "apologists" for big oil firms.

In an interview with NBC's "Today" show, Vice President Gore said the current administration would not "sit around and do nothing" while consumers were being charged "outrageously high" oil prices.

"I will not go along with the apologists for big oil and support an agenda that is of big oil, for big oil and by big oil," Gore said.

Asked whether he was referring to his Republican opponent George W. Bush, Gore responded: "I'm not using any names, all I'm looking at is the proposals that have come from the oil companies. It's true that the big oil companies are supporting my opponent."

President Clinton announced Friday he would allow 30 million barrels of oil in the Strategic Petroleum Reserve (SPR) to be tapped in a bid to ease oil prices, which rose to their highest level in a decade last week.

Clinton's announcement came one day after Gore urged him to release some of the emergency reserves, leading to accusations the move was politically motivated.

Gore said initial indications were that the release of SPR had been effective, adding that crude oil prices had come down to $32 a barrel from $37.

"So far, so good," he said.

Gore added that the reserves were not being depleted. "These are swaps. The oil will be restored. In fact we may end up with even more oil," he said.

Under the plan, the 30 million barrels of crude oil will be lent to energy companies, which will sell the crude in the open market or refine it into heating oil. The companies must promise to return the oil, plus more barrels, to restock the reserve next year when prices are lower.

Gore said his opponent's view that national security was threatened by releasing the reserves was "a little bit off."

"The purposes of the reserve were modified some years ago, 10 years ago I believe, to explicitly take this kind of situation into account," he said.

Asked whether his push for the release of the SPR was politically motivated as the election drew near, Gore said the situation was very different now than 10 months ago when he recommended the reserves should not be tapped.

"We have had 10 months of promises from OPEC to raise production and bring the price down and stabilize it at a lower level and they have not been able to follow through with what they pledged," he said.

Bush's running mate, Dick Cheney, accused Gore Sunday of doing an about-face on energy policy "to score political points" with election day six weeks away.

Copyright 2000 Reuters. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.


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Monday, September 25, 2000


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