Total CEO: Tapping oil reserve may drive up prices

By Steve Hargreaves, senior writer


HOUSTON (CNNMoney) -- The chief executive of French oil company Total said tapping the U.S. Strategic Petroleum Reserve is unnecessary, would signal fear and ultimately could drive energy prices higher.

Tapping the reserve "will send a message we are scared, and it could mean an increase in prices, not a decrease," Christophe de Margerie, said at IHS CERA's oil industry conference Tuesday. Total is the world's fifth-largest publicly-held oil company by revenue.

"It's to be left for a time when we are really confronted with a shortage of oil, which is not the case," said de Margerie.

He said Saudi Arabia and other countries can pump more than enough oil to make up for Libya's production of 1.6 million barrels a day, much of which is thought to be offline amid the country's ever-intensifying civil war.

The Saudis have indicated they will redirect oil to make up for lost Libyan production, but no formal OPEC production increase has been announced.

Many prominent lawmakers have called on President Obama to tap the strategic Petroleum Reserve in the hopes that it may bring down surging oil prices. U.S. crude prices have jumped 10% in the last month.

Part of that increase is due to the unrest in Libya, but much of it is due to the fear that the unrest could spread to other parts of the Middle East, particularly Saudi Arabia.

Gasoline prices have surged 15 cents a gallon over the last two weeks. Many economists say gasoline prices are reaching a level where they threaten the country's fragile economic recovery.

The Obama administration has not said whether it will tap the reserve which holds 727 million barrels of oil in underground salt domes in Texas and Louisiana.

That's enough to cover U.S. oil imports for about 90 days. To top of page

Frontline troops push for solar energy
The U.S. Marines are testing renewable energy technologies like solar to reduce costs and casualties associated with fossil fuels. Play
25 Best Places to find rich singles
Looking for Mr. or Ms. Moneybags? Hunt down the perfect mate in these wealthy cities, which are brimming with unattached professionals. More
Fun festivals: Twins to mustard to pirates!
You'll see double in Twinsburg, Ohio, and Ketchup lovers should beware in Middleton, WI. Here's some of the best and strangest town festivals. Play
Index Last Change % Change
Dow 16,408.54 -16.31 -0.10%
Nasdaq 4,095.52 9.29 0.23%
S&P 500 1,864.85 2.54 0.14%
Treasuries 2.72 0.08 3.19%
Data as of 4:11am ET
Company Price Change % Change
Bank of America Corp... 16.15 0.00 0.00%
Facebook Inc 58.94 0.00 0.00%
General Electric Co 26.56 0.00 0.00%
Cisco Systems Inc 23.21 0.00 0.00%
Micron Technology In... 23.91 0.00 0.00%
Data as of Apr 17
Sponsors

Sections

Spencer has been a supporting member of the "Good Morning America" cast for the past three years. More

Obamacare sign ups hit 8 million, though final enrollment remains to be seen. More

Office for iPad move is a symbolic victory for Nadella's Microsoft, but the company is still weighed down by many of the same old issues. More

Schwinn, Trek and Cannondale are all iconic American bicycle brands. But none of them are made in the United States. More

As Detroit moves closer to reaching a bankruptcy deal, retired civilian workers are poised to be left worse off than firemen and police officers. More

Market indexes are shown in real time, except for the DJIA, which is delayed by two minutes. All times are ET. Disclaimer LIBOR Warning: Neither BBA Enterprises Limited, nor the BBA LIBOR Contributor Banks, nor Reuters, can be held liable for any irregularity or inaccuracy of BBA LIBOR. Disclaimer. Morningstar: © 2014 Morningstar, Inc. All Rights Reserved. Disclaimer The Dow Jones IndexesSM are proprietary to and distributed by Dow Jones & Company, Inc. and have been licensed for use. All content of the Dow Jones IndexesSM © 2014 is proprietary to Dow Jones & Company, Inc. Chicago Mercantile Association. The market data is the property of Chicago Mercantile Exchange Inc. and its licensors. All rights reserved. FactSet Research Systems Inc. 2014. All rights reserved. Most stock quote data provided by BATS.