Energy Secretary James Edwards sought to reassure small, oil-dependent allied nations yesterday that the United States is committed to mutual but informal oil sharing in the event of a major supply disruption.
Edwards said press reports had mininterpreted his remarks at a meeting of the International Energy Agency in Paris on the need for all 21 member nations to maintain a strong petroleum reserve, United Press International quoted delegates as saying they thought Edwards had "warned" them they could expect no help from U.S. sources during an emergency if they drew down their oil reserves now to avoid paying high international prices.
"I never warned them at all," Edwards said. "I just urged them to join us in building our stocks up." He said he had rejected proposals to make the emergency oil-sharing plan a formal one with a set trigger point, "but we basically decided we would all share in the responsibility that none of our oil-consuming friends . . . would suffer too much from a [petroleum] stock cutoff."
Edwards reiterated his intention to let an unfettered market deal with any shortages at home other than "severe" ones that reduce oil imports by at least 2 million barrels a day, which would be more than 10 percent of total U.S. consumption.
"Rationing is the last thing I'd ever want to do," Edwards said.