His boss may have tried it and failed but now its Dick Cheney, the US vice-president’s turn. He is expected to urge Saudi Arabia to increase oil production during his tour of the Middle East that begins today.

Mr Bush spent two evenings with King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia during his January trip. But his appeals for increased oil output were ignored.

In the wake of such rebuffs for oil production to be increased, the administration is downplaying Mr Cheney’s interest in raising the issue. But a senior administration official briefing ahead of the trip said the vice-president was likely to discuss the causes of the oil price rise and would have “quite a bit of one-on-one time with King Abdullah”.

“Our economy has weakened and part of the reason is because of higher oil prices,” Dana Perino, White House press secretary, said last week. “We think that more supply would help.”

A little energy conservation might not go amiss either…