Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

Watkins Expects Crude Prices to Remain Stable

Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

Watkins Expects Crude Prices to Remain Stable

Article excerpt

By Dirk Beveridge NEW YORK - The oil crisis brought on by Iraq's invasion of Kuwait has pretty much run its course, and there will probably be no reason for crude prices to jump even if war breaks out, Energy Secretary James Watkins said Friday.

``From an energy perspective, I believe we are through the worst of the crisis,'' Watkins said a day after returning from a visit to Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.

Watkins said a war with Iraq should not cause concern among oil buyers because he sees no military threat to Middle East production facilities and he plans to ask President Bush to tap into the U.S. Strategic Petroleum Reserve if hostilities break out. The government recently conducted test sales of oil from the reserve that went smoothly, the secretary said.

``It works and works well,'' Watkins said in an address to the Jewish Community Relations Council of New York.

Some oil experts have estimated that crude prices could shoot as high as $100 per barrel if war breaks out. But Watkins said that if hostilities develop, ``I hope players in the oil market will keep their hats on.''

A combination of higher oil production and conservation has virtually eliminated the shortfall of 4.3 million barrels per day created by the global boycott of Iraqi and Kuwaiti crude implemented after Iraq invaded Kuwait on Aug. 2, he said.

After the invasion, fears of supply disruptions in the event of war pushed oil above $40 per barrel, although it has since fallen back to less than $30 as world production was increased and international leaders have adopted a more conciliatory stance in recent days.

Light sweet crude oil closed Friday at $26. …

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