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Despite the petroleum cutoff from Iraq and Iran, new oil keeps flowing into the US strategic reserve. Washington wants to pour at least 100,000 barrels a day into the reserve as a hedge against a new oil crisis. Currently the reserve is up to 94 million barrels, still well short of the 1 billion barrels that experts want.

Next week, the Department of Energy will award contracts to buy another 12 million barrels. That will push the total to about 36 million barrels under contract this year -- enough to keep the oil coming in at the 100,000 -barrel-a-day minimum rate required by Congress.

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DOE would like to buy even more. But the officials hesitate to move too fast out of concern that the US could upset world markets during the current Mideast fighting.m

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