President Barack Obama said Friday he's prepared to tap the country's emergency oil reserve should the situation demand it. But as gas prices climbed toward $4 a gallon, the president said the U.S. must adopt a long-term strategy of conservation and domestic production to wean itself off foreign oil.
"We've been having this conversation for nearly four decades now. Every few years gas prices go up, politicians pull out the same political playbook, and nothing changes," Obama said at a White House news conference.
"I don't want to leave this to the next president," he said.
Some in Congress have been calling on Obama to tap into the Strategic Petroleum Reserve and the president made clear Friday that that was an option, although he indicated he wasn't yet prepared to exercise it. Gas prices in the U.S. now average $3.54 per gallon.
Oil prices have surged 24 percent since the middle of February as unrest in the Middle East rattled world markets, although prices slid Friday on the possibility of reduced demand because of the devastating tsunami that hit Japan.
Republicans have sought to blame Obama's policies for the high gas prices, saying he should be allowing more offshore drilling, though experts say more domestic production wouldn't immediately impact prices. Obama rejected that criticism Friday.