Washington (CNN) - The number two House Democrat broke Monday with some of his fellow Democratic colleagues, and said he does not believe releasing oil from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve (SPR) is appropriate now and it wouldn't help lower gas prices.
Last week three House Democrats - Rep. Peter Welch, D-Vermont, Rep. Ed Markey, D- Mass, and Rep. Rosa DeLauro, D-Conn– wrote a letter to President Barack Obama urging him to release oil from the U.S. stockpile to reduce prices at the pump.
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"Signaling that the United States will continue to employ an aggressive SPR policy in the near term would send a strong signal to oil markets responding to the unrest in the Middle East," the three Democrats wrote.
But House Democratic Whip Steny Hoyer, D-Maryland, said he believes the SPR should be used in "emergency times when supply is being disrupted," and added, "there are no lines at the gas tanks anywhere in the country as far as I know."
Hoyer maintained there are other reasons for higher gas prices. "My own view that speculation and fear of what might happen is more a cause than the supply issue."
The Strategic Petroleum Reserve was created in the 1970s and managed by the U.S. Department of Energy to hold a reserve energy supply after an oil embargo resulted in record prices and gas shortages in many areas.
Last year after prices spiked at the pump, the president directed 30 million barrels of oil to be released from the SPR, citing supply disruptions caused by the conflict in Libya.
Asked what Congress could do to impact price in the short term, the Maryland Democrat admitted that it was "very difficult for us to affect to price individually."
Hoyer maintained that the global market place and demand from countries like China and India makes it difficult to control the price of oil through releasing more oil onto the market from the U.S. reserve supply.
But he conceded that the higher gas prices go the more pressure there will be for the president to tap the reserve.
Referring to the SPR, Hoyer said, "It was not set up to manage prices, that's not to say it hasn't been used in the past when prices came up because it has, and it may well be used for that in the future. I'm one of the skeptics as to whether it has a very great impact on prices."