|WASHINGTON - President Bush said Tuesday his administration was worried about high US gasoline prices and would look for ways to help American refineries produce more fuel to meet summer demand.|
Bush also said in an interview with CNBC television that he would warn Saudi Crown Prince Abdullah that continued high oil prices could hurt the international economy.
US retail gasoline prices soared to a national record of $2.28 per gallon last week and public opinion polls suggest voters are increasingly concerned about fuel prices.
In his interview with CNBC, Bush acknowledged that American motorists were growing impatient with rising gasoline prices.
"We're going to look at all regulations in terms of the manufacture of gasoline, refining of gasoline. Whether or not, you know, regulations that could prevent a refiner from expanding," Bush said. "The more supply there is of a commodity ... it's going to take pressure off of price."
Various federal and local anti-pollution regulations now require US refiners to manufacture more than dozen kinds of gasoline to meet city or regional clean air requirements.
Bush said he also wanted to take a closer look at regulations that discourage the expansion of refineries. No new US refinery has been built since the 1970s, largely due to strict environmental protection requirements.
"I fully understand high gas prices is beginning to really pinch a lot of our fellow citizens, and that's troubling," Bush said in the CNBC interview.
Bush also had stern words for Saudi Arabia, OPEC's largest oil producer and a major supplier to the US market.
"I'm going to explain to him that, you know, high-price crude oil will hurt the international economy," Bush said, referring to his scheduled Monday meeting with the Saudi crown prince.
"I don't think they're pumping flat out," he told CNBC. "I think they're near capacity, and so we've just got, got to get a straight answer from the government as to what they think their excess capacity is."
Bush was scheduled on Wednesday to deliver what his aides billed as a major speech on energy policy, again urging Congress to pass a broad energy bill with incentives to boost oil, natural gas, coal and other energy production.
He met on Tuesday with Republican and Democratic lawmakers responsible for the energy legislation.
One senator raised a concern about a bid by Senate Republicans to eliminate filibusters on judicial nominees.
Democrats have said that if Republicans push through such a ban, they would retaliate by putting up other procedural hurdles to slow Senate action on matters they consider nonessential.
Senate Energy Committee Chairman Pete Domenici said the dispute was an "ominous issue" hanging over the energy bill.
The House is expected to soon vote on its version of an energy bill that contains more than $8 billion in tax breaks to encourage more domestic production of crude oil, natural gas, coal, nuclear and other energy sources. The Senate will prepare its version in the next few weeks.
The House bill addresses energy supply but does little to try to rein in the rapid growth in US oil demand. Some former defense secretaries joined environmental groups recently in calling for stricter fuel efficiency standards for gas-guzzling vehicles.
(Additional reporting by Chris Baltimore and Julie Vorman)
Story by Caren Bohan
REUTERS NEWS SERVICE