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SCHUMER URGES USE OF OIL RESERVE

Saying that increased fuel prices have cost Western New York farmers $16.5 million over the past 27 months, Sen. Charles E. Schumer, D-N.Y., Wednesday called on President Bush to release some of the strategic petroleum reserve.

The increased cost of fuel over that time has cost the average farmer almost $3,000, Schumer said in a conference call.

"These outrageous hikes are coming in the wrong season," he said. "The U.S. Department of Agriculture predicts this year's crop production will drop 15 percent."

Schumer said initiating a swap from the strategic petroleum reserve -- allowing companies to bid on oil from the reserve with the guarantee that they return a greater amount at a later date -- is a proven way to reduce the cost of gasoline and heating oil.

"Prices came down dramatically when President Clinton did it (in 2000) . . . more than 25 cents (a gallon)," said Schumer, who has proposed such a swap in the past.

Schumer also called on the Federal Trade Commission to deny the proposed merger of oil giants ChevronTexaco and Unocal, saying it would further reduce competition, and to check how previous mergers in the oil industry impacted prices.

e-mail: citydesk@buffnews.com

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