Washington, DC—The Senate Democratic Leadership sent the following letter to President Bush today, urging him to persuade the Saudi government during his upcoming trip to the Middle East to take steps to bring down rapidly climbing oil prices. “The American people need your leadership on this issue now more than ever,” the Senators wrote. “We hope that you will put this concern at the top of your agenda during your meetings in Saudi Arabia, and that you convince the Saudis to release some of their spare capacity to cool the markets and give some relief to America’s drivers.”
The text of the letter is below:
May 12, 2008
The White House
Washington, DC 20500
Dear Mr. President:
During your upcoming trip to the Middle East, we understand you are scheduled to meet with King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia and other key Saudi leaders. We urge you to use this opportunity to request that the Saudi government take steps to reduce the record high prices American drivers are paying for gasoline at the pump and urge them to take steps to bring those prices down as rapidly as possible.
The average price of gasoline has more than doubled since you took office, growing from $1.46 per gallon to $3.65 per gallon. In many parts of the country, prices exceed $4 per gallon. These soaring costs at home have been driven largely by the skyrocketing price of oil on the world market, which has nearly quadrupled since you came to office – from $32.12 per barrel to $126 per barrel.
Record-high gasoline prices are seriously straining America’s families and businesses as well as our economy. At a time when income is stagnant for most American families, they have seen their fuel costs rise from 5 percent of their income in 2001 to 10 percent today.
Saudi Arabia is the world’s largest oil exporter, controls over one-fifth of the world’s proven oil reserves and is the largest oil producer in the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC). Clearly, it wields enormous influence over the price of crude oil. Last month, Saudi Arabia announced a five-year effort to expand its oil industry and to boost capacity to 12.5 million barrels a day by the end of next year. But the Kingdom also announced it would continue to maintain a 2 million barrel-per-day spare production capacity to be used when there is an unexpected need. With the price of crude oil at record levels and American drivers paying nearly $4 per gallon, we hope you would agree that such a time of unexpected need has come.
Before your first inauguration, you told the American people that you would be able to use your relationships in the oil industry to be more effective at convincing OPEC to increase its production of oil. Unfortunately, despite recent entreaties by you and Vice President Cheney, OPEC has voted three times in the last year against raising production, meaning rising gas prices continue to sap a greater portion of Americans’ paychecks.
The American people need your leadership on this issue now more than ever. We hope that you will put this concern at the top of your agenda during your meetings in Saudi Arabia, and that you convince the Saudis to release some of their spare capacity to cool the markets and give some relief to America’s drivers.
What you achieve on behalf of struggling American consumers during this visit can be historic. We ask only that you do not squander what may be one of your last opportunities as President to persuade the Saudi leadership to alleviate the primary concern on our citizens’ minds.
Senator Harry Reid Senator Richard J. Durbin
Majority Leader Assistant Majority Leader
Senator Charles E. Schumer Senator Patty Murray
Conference Vice Chairman Conference Secretary