High oil prices pose risk to economy: US


Oil prices that hit a record on Tuesday are clearly too high and not beneficial for the US economy, a top US energy official said.


The United States has been remarkably resilient in the face of expensive energy, but a rally on oil to more than $118 (Dh434) a barrel is an economic threat, US Acting Deputy Secretary of Energy Jeffrey Kupfer told a news briefing.


"Oil prices are clearly too high. We are not happy with the prices or the direction they're going in," Kupfer said.


Echoing remarks last week by US Energy Secretary Sam Bodman, he said the United States would not delay its plan to buy more oil for its Strategic Petroleum Reserves, in spite of the oil price.


Producer countries have blamed the weakness of the US dollar for the strength of the oil market and have said supplies for now are more than adequate.


By contrast, Kupfer said fundamentals of supply and demand were a major factor.


"Fundamentals are tight right now ... Our message is take a look at fundamentals," he said on the sidelines of the International Energy Forum in Rome, which brings together producers and consumers.


Kupfer dismissed concerns by producers that high prices would erode demand and increase use of alternative fuels, saying fossil fuels would continue to meet the vast majority of energy needs.


The United States has led a push to biofuels, blamed for a steep rise in food prices as they take up land that would otherwise be used for agriculture.


"We are concerned about the issue of rising food prices but don't think the use... for energy is what's contributing in a large way to the run up of food prices," Kupfer said.


He added the United States had committed about $1 billion (Dh368 billion) to development of next generation biofuels, which would not compete with food supplies. (Reuters)