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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: March 30, 2004

28 Senators: President Should Pressure Opec To Boost Oil Supply At Crucial Wed. Meeting

Although White House pressure could help lower record-high gas prices, President has FAILED to take actions to help lower costs for American drivers OPEC is meeting on Wednesday and will decide whether to to bolster oil supply; Gas prices have set all-time records again for the second week in a row

With gas prices at record highs, a group of Senators led by Charles Schumer of New York

The letter was signed by Senators Olympia Snowe, Charles Schumer, Barbara Mikulski, Ted Kennedy, Joseph Lieberman, Carl Levin, Jon Corzine, Mark Pryor, Paul Sarbanes, Harry Reid, Hillary Rodham Clinton, Christopher Dodd, Patrick Leahy, Barbara Boxer, Frank Lautenberg, Herb Kohl, Debbie Stabenow, Ron Wyden, Mark Dayton, Tim Johnson, Bill Nelson, Tom Harkin, Richard Durbin, Jack Reed, Russ Feingold, Ben Nelson, Byron Dorgan, and Maria Cantwell.

On Wednesday, OPEC will meet in Vienna to decide whether to proceed with a February 10 decision to cut excess crude production and lower output quotas by one million barrels a day, a move that would effectively reduce oil supply by 2.5 million barrels per day beginning on April 1, 2004. These cuts could represent an attempt to maintain the artificially high crude prices which have brought record profits to members of the cartel over the past two years.

Since January alone, oil prices have climbed more than 15 percent and have resulted in record gasoline prices in the United States and produced budget surpluses in nations like Saudi Arabia, OPEC's largest and most influential producer. Despite these price hikes, the Administration refuses to pressure OPEC to increase supplies, a position echoed as recently as last week by Energy Secretary Spencer Abraham.

In a letter being sent to the White House today, the Senators urged the Administration to pressure OPEC to abandon its planned cuts in production and to increase the world oil supply: "Mr. President, it is unacceptable for the whims of OPEC oil ministers to continue to exert undue influence over the United States. We simply cannot allow our economy, and the world’s economy, to be placed in jeopardy by a foreign oil cartel. Accordingly, we urge you to aggressively pressure OPEC to forgo its planned production cuts and to increase global oil supply.”

For the second week in a row, gas prices have hit record highs. According to the Lundberg survey, the national average for self-serve regular unleaded gas is over $1.77 a gallon, an increase of 29 cents a gallon since December 19. On Friday AAA reported that gas prices hit a record for the fourth day in a row. Gas prices are expected to rise even higher as the summer driving season gets underway and demand increases. California, Hawaii, Arizona, Nevada, New York have the highest gas prices in the nation, with the cost of premium unleaded there costing more than $2 a gallon. In Oregon, premium unleaded costs $1.96 a gallon. (For more data on local gas prices, go to http://www.fuelgaugereport.com/index.asp.)

"We are extremely concerned that OPEC’s control of global oil prices will continue to directly affect America’s economic well-being unless the Administration takes an active and aggressive role in pressuring OPEC to increase production. OPEC’s continued manipulation of the global oil market has already translated into extraordinarily high gasoline prices in the United States, with prices reportedly up 29 cents per gallon since December and averaging a record high of $1.80 nationwide. With American oil inventories hovering around lows not experienced since the mid 1970’s, there is also reason to believe that in the absence of strong action intended to compel OPEC to increase production the price of gasoline and heating oil heading into next winter will remain high," the Senators wrote.

The Energy Information Administration (EIA) estimates the current eleven OPEC members account for almost 40% of world oil production and about two-thirds of the world's proven oil reserves. OPEC members' national oil ministers meet regularly to discuss prices and set crude oil production quotas.

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