COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — President Bush said yesterday he understands public concern about rising gasoline prices, although his spokesman said the White House will not tap an emergency petroleum supply in response to the problem.“Higher prices at the gas pump and rising home heating bills and the possibilities of blackouts are legitimate concerns for all Americans,” Bush said from an auditorium at the Franklin County Veterans Memorial. In Franklin County, gasoline prices hover at more than $2 a gallon and imported oil is in the $55 a barrel range.Bush instructed Congress to enact energy legislation that he says addresses both supply and conservation issues.En route here, White House press secretary Mark McClellan told reporters aboard Air Force One: “We do not believe (the reserve) should be used to manipulate prices or for political purposes.”The reserve is in salt domes on the Gulf Coast. It was created after the 1973 oil embargo to counter supply disruptions.A number of Democrats in Congress have called on the president to release oil from the emergency reserve to ease tight market conditions, but the White House has repeatedly rejected such a move.The impact of high energy prices is particularly high on a manufacturing state like Ohio. Bush’s audience sat quietly through most of his speech as he spoke of technical alternatives like hydrogen fuel, biodiesel and clean coal technology. He drew loud applause from his supporters when he said Congress should allow drilling in the Alaska’s wildlife refuge.Environmentalists strongly oppose drilling there because the area is home to wildlife and a migration stopover for millions of birds. Bush said drilling there would create jobs and reduce dependence on foreign oil by up to a million barrels a day.“We can now reach all of ANWR’s oil by drilling on just 2,000 acres,” Bush said. “Two thousand acres is the size of the Columbus airport.”Before leaving Washington, Bush talked by telephone with Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi about the Middle East, Iraq and North Korea.McClellan said Bush expressed hopes of resuming U.S. beef exports to Japan. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice plans to take up the issue when she visits Japan soon, the press secretary said.U.S. beef exports to Japan have been halted because of Japanese concerns about mad cow disease. “It’s an important issue,” McClellan said. We would like to see the market opened.”

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