Wednesday March 09, 2011 | 02:30 PM

Rep. Chellie Pingree says it’s time for President Obama to tap the nation’s oil reserves to combat rising energy prices.

The Maine Democrat from the 1st district is among a group of Democrats, which includes Sen. Charles Schumer of New York and Rep. Edward Markey of Massachusetts, calling on the president to use some of the 727 million barrels of oil in the United States’ Strategic Petroleum Reserve to ensure that $100-plus barrels of oil don’t stall the country’s economic recovery.

Unrest in Libya and the Middle East is helping drive up the cost of oil. White House officials have indicated they are considering such a move if matters get worse, but also have indicated that they believe a disruption in supplies is needed to justify such action, not just rising prices.
Pingree says the past three presidents all at some time used the reserves and lower prices was the result – and that would be a good move today.
“Speculation by the big oil companies is driving up prices of gas and heating oil and making it even harder for working families to make ends meet,” Pingree said.  “And it’s not just the cost of driving your car or heating your home either. Rising diesel prices are also pushing up the price of groceries and other necessities.  For families still struggling in this weak economy, this is a real crisis.”
Pingree and other lawmakers told Obama in a letter this week that, “Releasing even a small fraction of that oil could have a significant impact on speculation in the marketplace and on prices.  It would also remind the world that the U.S. is ready, willing and able to use the SPR aggressively and effectively if needed.”

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Kevin Miller is Washington bureau chief for the Portland Press Herald and MaineToday Media. He has worked as a journalist in Maine for 6 ½ years, covering the environment, politics and the State House. Before arriving in Maine, he wrote about politics, government and education for newspapers in Virginia and Maryland.
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