June 24, 2008

Saudis Willing to Increase Crude Output


JIDDAH, Saudi Arabia Facing strong U.S. pressure and global dismay over oil prices, Saudi Arabia said Sunday that it will produce more crude this year if the market needs it. But the vague pledge fell far short of U.S. hopes for a specific increase and may do little to lower prices immediately.

For now, the current "oil shock" leaves Western countries with little choice but to move toward nuclear power and change their energy-consumption habits, Britain's prime minister warned at a rare meeting of oil-producing and consuming nations.

Saudi Arabia the world's top crude exporter called the gathering Sunday to send a message that it, too, is concerned by high oil prices inflicting economic pain worldwide.

Instead, the meeting highlighted the sharp disagreement between producers like Saudi Arabia and consuming countries like Britain and the United States over the core factors driving steep price hikes. Oil closed near $135 a barrel on Friday almost double from a year ago.

The cost of gasoline also has become a sore point in the U.S. presidential race, with President Bush and presumptive Republican nominee John McCain calling on Congress to lift its long-standing ban on offshore oil and gas drilling. Barack Obama, the presumptive Democratic nominee, says such moves will do nothing to ease American consumers' pain short-term.

The U.S. and other nations argue that oil production has not kept up with increasing demand. But Saudi Arabia says there is no shortage of oil and blames the falling U.S. dollar.

(c) 2008 Record, The; Bergen County, N.J.. Provided by ProQuest Information and Learning. All rights Reserved.