White House pushes back on report of deal with Britain to tap oil reserve

March 14, 2012: President Obama and first lady Michelle Obama walk with British Prime Minister David Cameron at the White House.

March 14, 2012: President Obama and first lady Michelle Obama walk with British Prime Minister David Cameron at the White House.  (AP)

The White House pushed back on a report Thursday that the Obama administration had struck a deal with Great Britain to have both countries to release emergency oil supplies in a bid to combat rising gas prices. 

Speculation has been widespread about whether President Obama, facing election-year pressure to take action to slow the fuel price upswing, might tap the Strategic Petroleum Reserve. 

Reuters reported Thursday that the U.S. and Britain would team up to jointly release emergency supplies -- the report comes following a meeting between Obama and British Prime Minister David Cameron, who was in Washington Wednesday for a state visit. 

But White House Press Secretary Jay Carney, while acknowledging Obama and Cameron discussed "energy issues" in their meeting, said the report was inaccurate. 

"It is inaccurate ... that any kind of agreement was reached on a course of action or that any kind of timetable associated with a course of action was agreed to," Carney said. "Those reports are wrong. They're false."

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"We regularly consult with the British on energy issues and any discussion that we had was in that context. We will continue to monitor the situation and consult with them and others," a senior administration official added. 

Any decision to tap the reserve would be controversial. Lawmakers have cautioned against turning to the country's reserve to impact the price of gas -- since the emergency reserve is intended to be used to offset supply disruptions. 

Obama tapped the oil reserve last year, amid the upheaval in Libya. At the same time, Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., on Wednesday praised Saudi Arabia for agreeing to increase its output.

"This is the best hope in the shorter term to reduce the price of oil. The more the Saudis repeat this promise to offset Iran's output, the more it will calm the markets," he said.

On Thursday, Carney insisted that drilling alone "doesn't add up" and an all-of-the-above approach is needed.

Meanwhile, the president made a stop in Maryland Thursday, where he dismissed Republican presidential candidates who argue the nation needs a massive increase in oil drilling to reduce high gas prices.

The president said in Maryland that the U.S. is producing more oil than at any time in the past eight years and has quadrupled the number of operating oil rigs.

GOP candidates seeking the White House have criticized the sharp rise in gas prices on Obama's watch. The average retail price for a gallon of gas was $3.81 on Wednesday, 50 cents higher than a month ago.

Obama compared the arguments of his critics to an old movie or TV show. He says, "It's like a bad re-run." 

"A lot of the folks who are running for a certain office who shall go unnamed, they've been talking down new sources of energy," Obama told a crowd of students at Prince George's Community College in Washington's Maryland suburbs 

"They dismiss wind power. They dismiss solar power. They make jokes about biofuels. They were against raising fuel standards. I guess they like gas-guzzlers," he said.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.