NEW YORK (CNNMoney) -- Three House Democrats urged President Obama Thursday to tap the nation's Strategic Petroleum Reserve as turmoil in the Middle East pushed oil prices over $100 a barrel.
In a letter to Obama, Massachusetts Representative Edward Markey, Connecticut Representative Rosa DeLauro, and Vermont's Peter Welch said soaring energy prices stemming from supply disruptions and rampant speculation in the oil markets are making it hard on American consumers and businesses.
"We therefore urge you to consider leveraging the SPR to respond to these supply disruptions and combat the rapid price escalations," the letter said.
The nation's strategic reserve, located man-made underground salt domes in Texas and Louisiana, holds 727 million barrels of oil. That's enough to cover U.S. oil imports for 85 days, or most of the oil exported from the Persian Gulf for 48 days.
The lawmakers said releasing oil from the SPR would send a strong message to oil traders that the American government is ready to act.
The White House did not immediately respond to an email seeking comment.
Oil prices dropped 33% when President Bush tapped the SPR during the Gulf War in 1991. Prices also dropped 19 percent when Bill Clinton tapped it in 2000 and 9% when George W. Bush used it following Hurricane Katrina, the lawmakers pointed out in their letter.
Ray Carbone, president of the oil trading firm Paramont Options, said releasing oil from the SPR is one of the things traders were watching for, and that it could help calm oil prices, if only temporally.
So far, it appears that Libya is the only country to see its oil output cut as a result of the recent upheaval. Reports Wednesday said half of the country's 1.6 million-barrel a day oil production is shut in.
The diet company's stock has shed nearly half its value this year. Investors are skeptical that Weight Watchers can turn things around -- despite the stamp of approval from board member and spokesperson Oprah Winfrey. More
The jobs market is near full employment with 14 million jobs added since early 2010. Gas prices are cheap. Home prices are rising. The stock market is near record highs. So why does everyone think the economy stinks? More
IBM puts its quantum computer online to let researchers, student and general public test computer that is exponentially faster than traditional digital computers. More
In 1998, Ntsiki Biyela won a scholarship to study wine making. Now she's about to launch her own brand. More