Published: Mar 11, 2011 7:19 PM EST
Updated: Mar 11, 2011 4:21 PM EST

WASHINGTON - President Barack Obama says he's prepared to tap the country's emergency oil reserve should the situation demand it. As gas prices rise some in Congress have been calling on Obama to tap into the Strategic Petroleum Reserve.

Obama spoke at a White House news conference Friday as gas prices in the U.S. climbed past $3.54 per gallon.

Oil prices have surged 24 percent since the middle of February as unrest in the Middle East rattled world markets, although prices slid Friday on the possibility of reduced demand because of the tsunami that hit Japan.

Republicans have sought to blame Obama's policies for the high gas prices, saying he should be allowing more offshore drilling, though experts say more domestic production wouldn't immediately impact prices.

(Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)