Oil prices continued their dramatic increase yesterday, but senior Bush administration officials said they are not convinced there is a substantial threat of worldwide supply disruptions that would justify emergency measures.

The president is not going to be stampeded by temporary price spikes into intervening in oil markets, the officials said.

Oil prices have nearly doubled in the past month and have increased by one-third in the past week, spurred by Iraq's invasion of Kuwait. But the outrage of consumers and some members of Congress has not altered the administration's determination to tolerate short-term price increases and intervene only if there is a serious threat to supplies.

"The president is very much aware of this and is following it personally," said Deputy Energy Secretary W. Henson Moore. "But we have to watch it a little differently than a congressman running for reelection back home. They have election jitters. That's not the test we use. Our test is an interruption of supply."

John J. Easton, assistant energy secretary for international affairs and energy emergencies, told angry members of a House subcommittee yesterday that the administration is considering activation of the 590-million barrel Strategic Petroleum Reserve to avoid disruption of oil supplies. But other officials made clear that use of the reserve is only one of several options under consideration and that the SPR is not going to be activated as a price lever.

"We will draw down the Strategic Petroleum Reserve -- I repeat -- if the severity of the situation warrants it," Easton said.

He acknowledged that the current situation arguably could satisfy the legal requirements for tapping the reserve, but, he added: "Presently -- I emphasize presently -- there is not a significant shortfall of crude oil in the market."

"Price is not the trigger," one administration official said.

Easton said representatives of the United States, Japan and West Germany, which together control reserves of more than 800 million barrels of oil, will meet Thursday in Paris at a specially called meeting of the International Energy Agency's board of governors to discuss the possible coordinated release of oil stocks and other options.

The Bush administration's view is derived partly from its free-market philosophy about energy. But it is also based on specific analyses last winter indicating that sustained, long-term supply disruptions are unlikely and that the economy could withstand some price increases.

A CIA analysis of world oil markets found that production cutbacks in some producing countries would mostly be balanced by "likely offsets" elsewhere.

In the present crisis the conditions are reversed, with the United States itself trying to force a disruption of supplies from two major producing countries -- Iraq and Kuwait.

Moore said it is too early to tell if that analysis is still valid.

If U.S. action "takes Iraq and Kuwait oil off the international market, maybe we can compensate by increased production, as happened in 1980 when Iran and Iraq went to war," he said. "Will there be a surge of production from other countries, a response in conservation and fuel switching?"

The CIA said that even a "gross disruption" of 8 million barrels a day "is reduced to around 1 million barrels a day when likely offsets besides SPR are considered." Iraq and Kuwait combined to produce about 5 million barrels a day before the present crisis. Most of that production now effectively has been removed from the market.

Extra oil could come from a handful of producing countries that have excess capacity. Whether two of the most important, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, would pump more oil in defiance of a belligerent Iraq is the key question. {The president of another key producer, Venezuela, promised yesterday to do everything he could to make up crude oil supplies lost due to Iraq's invasion of Kuwait, the Associated Press quoted a U.S. official as saying. President Carlos Andres Perez also said other OPEC nations will try to add to supplies and push down prices, the AP said, quoting an official traveling in Columbia with Vice President Dan Quayle.}

In the short run, oil industry officials said yesterday, prices are likely to continue to be as volatile as the situation kindled by Iraq's invasion of Kuwait last week. No matter how the crisis is resolved, they added, prices are likely to wind up higher than they were before the invasion.

Benchmark September crude oil futures rose 26 cents a barrel yesterday to close at $28.31 after trading as high as $29 on the New York Mercantile Exchange. Just a few weeks ago, the price of the same barrel of oil was less than $16.

At one point during the day, many traders and analysts thought the price had reached a peak, but new reports about American troop movements in the Middle East sent the price higher.

"I ... thought we'd have an equilibrium. That's why I'm ... discouraged by prices going up to $29," said Ted Eck, chief economist at Amoco Corp. in Chicago.

Experts said the uncertainty of the situation made it difficult to say where the price of oil might level out.

"It's very hard to pick what's the top in oil," said Peter Beutel, an oil trader for Merrill Lynch & Co. "Part of the reason for that is that oil has a history of moving further and faster than anybody in the industry thought it would go."

But Beutel and others speculated yesterday that the price might top out near its current level unless there is significant military action, particularly involving oil-rich Saudi Arabia.

"If this is all that's going to happen, then probably something between $25 and $30 {a barrel} is where we're going to settle out. But if they attack Saudi Arabia, pick a large number and double it, because that's where it's going to go."

The longer-term price outlook, experts said, is even more uncertain, depending as it does on which of many scenarios plays itself out, ranging from a defusing of the situation to an invasion of Saudi Arabia.

Some analysts have speculated that in a worst-case scenario, the price of oil could rise to $40 or more.

Philip K. Verleger Jr., a visiting fellow at the Institute of International Economics, told a House subcommittee looking into oil price rises yesterday that he could see prices increasing as high as $45 just because of the shortage caused by the embargo on oil from Iraq and Kuwait.

Even if much of that supply can be replaced, most experts don't expect the price of oil to fall precipitously from its current levels. Virtually all experts say the long-term price of oil under even the best of circumstances will be greater than the $21-a-barrel target set by the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries at its meeting last month, and many experts believe the long-term, best-case scenario is in the neighborhood of $25.

"We're probably ultimately going to end up with a price that's somewhat higher than it was a month ago -- that is, $20, $21 a barrel," said Alvin Silber, an oil industry analyst at Brean Murray Foster in New York.

"The days of $15 crude are presumably for the archives," Eck said. "I think a $25 to $30 range is a range that markets could be relatively comfortable with."

Staff writer Martha Hamilton contributed to this story.