Bush freezes nation's emergency oil supply

The President halts government purchases of oil to the Strategic Petroleum Reserve for 6 months.

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WASHINGTON (CNN) -- President Bush will sign a bill halting U.S. government purchases of oil to replenish the nation's emergency supply, a White House spokesman said Monday.

Congress voted overwhelmingly last week to order the administration to stop new deliveries to the Strategic Petroleum Reserve for six months in order to try to bring the price of gasoline down. The bill passed with veto-proof majorities in both houses of Congress.

The White House does not believe the measure will affect gas prices, but the president will not stand in its way, spokesman Scott Stanzel said.

"He hopes that this vote on the SPR will not distract members [of Congress] from the things they could be doing that would actually make a difference, like opening up new domestic supply in an environmentally sensitive way" in Alaska's Arctic National Wildlife Refuge and the outer continental shelf off the U.S. coast, Stanzel said.

The Energy Department pre-emptively decided Friday not to purchase oil for the SPR from July to December in case the bill became law, spokeswoman Megan Barnett said.

Gas prices across the United States averaged $3.79, according to a survey released Sunday. Oil was trading at just below $126 a barrel Monday.

Estimates for how much cutting off additions to the SPR would save consumers on a gallon of gas range from a few pennies to 25 cents. The U.S. Energy Information Administration predicts oil prices would fall by only about $2 a barrel - shaving 4 to 5 cents a gallon off the price of gas - if deliveries to the SPR are suspended.

Bush Friday urged Saudi Arabia, the world's largest oil producer, to increase output, but he was rebuffed for the second time this year. The kingdom said there isn't enough demand from its customers. To top of page

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