WASHINGTON - The Energy Department is prepared to provide oil from the government's emergency supplies if a refinery requests it because of the disruption of supplies from Alaska, a department spokesman said Monday.
"We're taking a very serious look at this," said spokesman Craig Stevens, referring to the loss of nearly half of oil shipments from Alaska's North Slope because of a pipeline corrosion problem.
Stevens said the department will be in contact with BP Exploration Alaska Inc. and West Coast refiners later today to assess the situation. "If there is a request for oil we'll certainly take a serious look at that," he said.
The Strategic Petroleum Reserve is the nation's emergency stockpile of crude oil. It was created after the 1973 oil embargo when Arab countries halted petroleum exports to protest U.S. support for Israel.
In December 1975, President Ford signed legislation making it U.S. policy to create a reserve capable of holding up to 1 billion barrels of oil as an insurance policy against future supply disruptions.
Oil companies contribute to the supply in lieu of paying cash royalties for oil pumped on federally owned land.