15/03/2012 17:16 GMT | Updated 16/03/2012 06:22 GMT

Petrol Prices: David Cameron Moots Oil Reserves Release

David Cameron said on Thursday that it was "worth looking at" releasing global oil reserves in the hope of cutting prices at the pumps for consumers.

The prime minister discussed the idea with US President Barack Obama at the White House yesterday, but no decision was taken to put the plan into action in the immediate future.

Obama has been coming under intense pressure over rising petrol prices as he fights for re-election in November, with a gallon of "gas" now around 3.80 dollars (£2.40).

And there are concerns that the price could climb even higher because of international sanctions on exports from Iran and worries that tensions over Tehran's nuclear ambitions may worsen.

Releases from the strategic petroleum reserves were authorised last year to prevent abrupt spikes in cost as a result of disruption to supplies due to the revolution in Libya.

Cameron suggested today that the move could be repeated to hold prices down if there was a similar threat to supplies in the future.

Answering questions from students at New York University, Cameron said that, by comparison with US forecourts, petrol prices in the UK "would probably make you faint".

But he accepted that the continuing high price of fuel was holding back both economies, and said he wanted to do something to help consumers.

Answering questions from students, the Prime Minister said: "President Obama and I discussed this issue yesterday. Obviously, petrol prices are having a big effect on families, there's no doubt about it.

"It does have a big effect on consumer confidence, it affects household budgets. We would both like to see global oil prices lower than they are today.

"We didn't make any decision about the release of global oil reserve stocks. We did this last year when there was supply disruption because of the disruption in Libyan production.

"We have got to look at this issue carefully because any move on this front would have to be to recognise supply disruptions and therefore to try to smooth out the price.

"But I think it is worth looking at because it is having an effect on all our economies, on all our families, on our budgets."

Officials travelling with Cameron on his three-day visit to the USA earlier confirmed that the Prime Minister and President had discussed a possible release of reserves.

But they played down reports from London that a formal request was imminently expected from the US for Britain to get involved in an internationally co-ordinated action.

A senior Obama administration official said: "No agreement was reached. We will continue to work together to address energy security and oil price issues."

Although the potential for saving motorists money at the pumps through the move remains unclear, Obama may be hoping that by talking with international allies, he can at least persuade voters he is actively engaged with the issue.