Bush to Discuss Oil Prices on Trip to Saudi Arabia


President Bush is expected to talk with Saudi Arabian officials about the effect record oil prices are having on the U.S. economy during his upcoming visit to the kingdom, the White House said Monday.

"Whenever the president has discussions with leaders in the region, he talks about the impact that high oil prices do have on our economy and the impact that that has on the world economy. So, I think you can expect the president to make those concerns very clear," White House spokesman Scott Stanzel said.

Saudi Arabia, a key member of OPEC, is the world's largest oil producer and has the most unused oil output capacity. However, the kingdom and other OPEC members have rejected U.S. calls for the group to ramp up production to help lower prices, saying the markets are well supplied with crude.

The price of U.S. crude oil hit a record $120.21 a barrel on Monday at the New York Mercantile Exchange. The higher oil price will likely be passed on to consumers at the pump, as crude accounts for about 72 percent of the cost of making gasoline.

Bush travels to Israel, Egypt and Saudi Arabia on his May 8-13 trip.

Earlier on Monday, Bush repeated that "we'd look at" proposals to eliminate the 18.4-cent federal excise tax on each gallon of gasoline sold during the summer.

U.S. presidential candidates John McCain and Hillary Clinton have called for temporarily suspending the tax to help consumers offset some of the record gasoline prices. Rival candidate Barack Obama opposes easing the tax, claiming consumers wouldn't get much price relief in the end.

Bush said the U.S. needs to take long-term steps to tackle its energy problems, including increasing domestic oil production, building more refineries and diversifying away from oil as a major energy source altogether.

"It's been a while in the making and it's going to be a while that we solve the problem," Bush said about high oil and gasoline prices.