Britain proposes to boost oil production

Britain's Treasury chief Gordon Brown on Tuesday called on OPEC countries to boost oil production and proposed coordinated international action to stabilize oil markets.

"The first action we must take is to tackle the cause of the problem, ensuring concerted global action is taken to bring down world oil prices and stabilize the market for the long term," Brown said in a speech to the Trades Union Congress in Brighton.

"From the additional US$300 billion a year in revenue OPEC countries are now enjoying and the additional US$800 billion available to oil producers, there must be additional new investment in production and global investment in refining capacity," he added.

By focusing on producers, Brown in effect rejected calls from a group of fuel protesters who plan a three-day demonstration at refineries beginning Wednesday to support demands for relief from Britain's high fuel taxes, the AP reports.

The price of unleaded petrol in some area has nudged past 1 pound (Ђ1.48, US$1.82) per liter. Taxes represent about 47 percent of the pump price.

The government said Tuesday that fuel prices had risen 12.5 percent compared to August last year, driving consumer price inflation to an eight-year high of 2.4 percent in August.

The threat of action against refineries has alarmed motorists, and queues have grown at petrol stations as car owners fill up to guard against any interruption of fuel supplies. A few dealers reported running out of fuel because of heavy demand.

Brown also said a lack of transparency about the world's reserves and plans for their development undermine stability and cause speculation. He said the world must call on the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries to become more open and more transparent.

The Treasury said Brown would present his plan to the annual meetings of the G-8 group of major industrialized countries, the International Monetary Fund and World Bank. OPEC meets later this month.

The Fuel Lobby, a loosely organized protest group, is calling on the public to "attend" oil refineries beginning Wednesday morning to begin their protests.

"We are not calling for a blockade, but if oil companies decide they cannot send out lorries while there is a public presence at their site, then that is a matter for them," said Fuel Lobby spokesman Andrew Spence.

The protest nonetheless revived memories of wildcat blockades of refineries in 2000, when nearly a week of protests dried up supplies.

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