Bush Weighs Tapping Petroleum Reserves

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President Bush is weighing a decision on whether to release some oil from the nation's petroleum reserves to help refiners hurt by Hurricane Katrina.

Administration officials say a decision is expected later in the day.

The storm already forced the shutdown of an estimated one million barrels of refining capacity along the nation's Gulf Coast.

Administration officials, speaking on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak publicly, says Bush seems likely to authorize a loan of some oil from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve but that details remain in flux.

In 2004, the president authorized loans from the reserve to help refiners make up for missing supplies when Hurricane Ivan struck.

A Department of Energy spokesman says the U.S. government is in touch with oil companies in the region and that a decision on whether to release oil from emergency stockpiles will likely be made in the next 24 to 48 hours.

The government's supply of nearly 700 million barrels of oil is stored in underground salt caverns along the Texas and Louisiana Gulf Coasts.

The reserve was established to cushion oil markets during energy disruptions.