David Cameron has said it is “worth looking at” releasing global oil reserves in the hope of cutting prices at the pumps for consumers.
The Prime Minister discussed the idea with US President Barack Obama at the White House, but no decision was taken to put the plan into action in the immediate future.
Mr Obama has been coming under intense pressure over rising petrol prices as he fights for re-election in November, with a gallon of “gas” now about $3.80 (£2.40).
And there are concerns that the price could climb even higher because of international sanctions on exports from Iran and worries that tensions over Tehran’s nuclear ambitions may worsen.
Releases from the strategic petroleum reserves were authorised last year to prevent abrupt price increases if supplies were disrupted by the revolution in Libya.
Mr Cameron suggested this week that the move could be repeated to hold prices down if there was a similar threat to supplies in the future.
Answering questions from students at New York University, Mr Cameron said that, by comparison with US forecourts, petrol prices in the UK “would probably make you faint”.
But he accepted that continuing high fuel prices were holding back both economies, and said he wanted to do something to help consumers.
Answering questions from students, the Prime Minister said: “President Obama and I discussed this issue yesterday. Obviously, petrol prices are having a big effect on families, there’s no doubt about it. It does have a big effect on consumer confidence, it affects household budgets. We would both like to see global oil prices lower than they are today.
“We didn’t make any decision about the release of global oil reserve stocks. We did this last year when there was supply disruption because of the disruption in Libyan production.
He added: “We have got to look at this issue carefully because any move on this front would have to be to recognise supply disruptions and therefore to try to smooth out the price.”