"We need to make sure we have the resources in the Strategic Petroleum Reserve to act in the event of an emergency, which would be a severe disruption of energy supplies," said White House spokesman Scott McClellan.
He said that there would be no halt in the program to keep pumping oil into the reserves, located in Texas and Louisiana, just because oil prices are currently so high.
The retail price of gasoline hit an all-time high Tuesday — nearly $1.74 per gallon nationwide — reflecting strong demand, tight supplies and the high cost of oil, the AAA reported.
AAA, formerly the American Automobile Association, reported that motorists are now paying $1.738 per gallon for self-serve regular unleaded gasoline, one-tenth of a penny higher than the previous record set last Aug. 30. Premium unleaded costs more than $2 a gallon in many parts of the country.
"Like most Americans, the president is concerned about rising gas prices, " said McClellan.
McClellan renewed the administration's call for Congress to pass the administration-supported energy bill, designed to provide new tax breaks and other incentives to spur exploration and production.
Bush's Democratic opponent for president, John Kerry, said in a statement Tuesday that oil companies are earning record profits and the administration's policies are failing.
"George Bush stubbornly refuses to admit that his economic policies aren't working, and now even in the face of record-high gas prices, he still stubbornly refuses to change his failed energy policies that are hitting families so hard at the pump," Kerry said. "We need a balanced energy policy that protects consumers from high gas prices, invests in renewable energy, and promotes responsible development here at home."
Bush-Cheney campaign spokesman Steve Schmidt responded Tuesday, "The John Kerry complaining about energy costs today must not have checked with the John Kerry who helped block the energy bill last year or the John Kerry who supported a 50-cent tax hike on a gallon of gas."
Asked whether the administration was seeking to pressure the Organization of Oil Exporting Countries to increase its members' production to help lower prices, McClellan said, "As far as OPEC, we've always said that sustained economic growth requires abundant and affordable supplies of energy."
"The United States continues to emphasize that oil prices should be determined by market forces in order to ensure their adequate supplies," he said.