U.S. energy chief pleads for more Saudi, OPEC oil
By Simon Webb
ABU DHABI (Reuters) - U.S. Energy Secretary Sam Bodman repeated his plea on Monday for more oil from top exporter Saudi Arabia, undeterred by OPEC's cautious response to Washington's request so far.
Oil has fallen by more than 10 percent from a record high of $100.09 a barrel hit early this month, easing some of the pressure on OPEC to raise supplies, analysts said.
Bodman told reporters in Abu Dhabi there were short-term concerns about the performance of the U.S. economy and he was hopeful Riyadh would steer a decision to increase oil supplies at OPEC's meeting on February 1 in Vienna.
"I continue to believe in my earlier statement that we are hopeful they will increase supplies," he said. "I am of the view that there needs to be increased supply in order to call the markets of the world well supplied with oil."
Bodman, who met the Saudi oil minister at the weekend, said the United States expected oil inventories to drop in the first half of 2008 but the Saudis held "different views."
The United Arab Emirates Oil Minister Mohammed al-Hamli said OPEC would examine all options when its ministers meet.
"OPEC ... will look then at all the options," Hamli told reporters on the sidelines of a green energy conference. "There is a disconnect between fundamentals and the price."
When asked what OPEC should do at the meeting, he said: "We haven't yet decided. We will decide in Vienna with all the other OPEC ministers."
Bodman's appeal came days after U.S. President George W. Bush asked for more oil on a separate visit to Riyadh, and less than two weeks before OPEC's next meeting.
He has said the challenges caused by high oil prices posed a serious problem for the United States, the world's biggest consumer of fuel, and for developing economies.
He added however, that the United States had no intention of changing the rate at which it was filling its strategic petroleum reserves despite high oil prices.
"We are filling the SPR at 70,000 barrels per day (bpd). The world uses 84 million bpd. It is a very small fraction," Bodman said.
(Writing by Inal Ersan, editing by Peg Mackey)