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Bush won't tap reserve to ease price of gasoline

COLUMBUS, Ohio -- President Bush said yesterday that he understands public concern about rising gasoline prices, although his spokesman said the White House won't tap an emergency petroleum supply in response to the problem.

''Higher prices at the gas pump and rising home heating bills and the possibilities of blackouts are legitimate concerns for all Americans," Bush said from an auditorium at the Franklin County Veterans Memorial here, as gasoline prices hover at more than $2 a gallon and imported oil is in the $55 a barrel range.

Bush instructed Congress to enact energy legislation that he says addresses both supply and conservation issues.

En route here, White House press secretary Mark McClellan told reporters aboard Air Force One: ''We do not believe it [the reserve] should be used to manipulate prices or for political purposes."

The reserve -- 660 million barrels, or equivalent to more than two months of imports -- is in salt domes on the Gulf Coast.

A number of Democrats in Congress have called on the president to release oil from the emergency reserve to ease tight market conditions.

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