Bush urges more U.S. off-shore drilling

June 18, 2008 8:15:04 AM PDT
With gasoline topping $4 a gallon, President Bush urged Congress on Wednesday to lift its long-standing ban on offshore oil and gas drilling, saying the United States needs to increase its energy production.

"There is no excuse for delay," the president said in a statement in the Rose Garden. With the presidential election on the horizon, Bush blamed Democratic lawmakers for opposing his energy policies and for high gasoline costs. His proposal echoed a call by Republican presidential candidate John McCain to open the Continental Shelf for exploration

"Families across the country are looking to Washington for a response," Bush said.

He said that offshore drilling could yield up to 18 billion barrels of oil over time, although it would take years for production to start. Bush also said offshore drilling would take pressure off prices over time.

There are two prohibitions on offshore drilling, one imposed by Congress and another by executive order. Bush is not lifting the executive order, saying he wants Congress to take the first step. He said he will lift the executive ban once Congress lifts its moratorium.

Before Bush spoke, the House Appropriations Committee postponed a vote it had scheduled for Wednesday on legislation doing the opposite of what the president asked - extending Congress' ban on offshore drilling. Lawmakers said they wanted to focus on a disaster relief bill for the battered Midwest.

Bush also proposed opening the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge for drilling, lifting restrictions on oil shale production in the Green River Basin of Colorado, Utah and Wyoming and easing the regulatory process to expand oil refining capacity.

With Americans deeply pessimistic about the economy, Bush tried to put on the onus on Congress. He acknowledged that his new proposals would take years to have a full effect, hardly the type of news that will help drivers at the gas stations now. The White House says no quick fix exists.

Still, Bush said Congress was obstructing progress - and directly contributing to consumers' pain at the pump.

"I know the Democratic leaders have opposed some of these policies in the past," Bush said. "Now that their opposition has helped drive gas prices to record levels, I ask them to reconsider their positions."

Bush said that if congressional leaders head home for their July 4 recess without taking action, they will need to explain why "$4 a gallon gasoline is not enough incentive for them to act. And Americans will rightly ask how high gas prices have to rise before the Democratic-controlled Congress will do something about it."


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