Bush wants to re-open offshore drilling

President George W. Bush urged the US Congress to re-open offshore oil drilling on the east and west coasts, banned for more than a decade. If opened it would take another decade to develop these fields.


Read Douglas Herbert's blog "Bush's drilling disaster".


WASHINGTON, June 18 (Reuters) - President George W. Bush on
Wednesday urged Congress to end a ban on offshore oil drilling,
seeking to address rising consumer angst over record-high
gasoline prices with a plan sure to anger environmentalists.

"Every American who drives to work, purchases food or ships
a product has felt the effect, and families across the country
are looking to Washington for a response," Bush said.

As average U.S. pump prices pierced the $4-a-gallon level
for the first time this month, energy policy has become a key
issue in the presidential race ahead of November elections.

Bush said opening federal lands off the U.S. east and west
coasts -- where oil drilling has been banned by both an
executive order and a congressional moratorium since the early
1990s -- could yield about 18 billion barrels of oil.

That's enough to meet current U.S. consumption for about 2
1/2 years, but it likely would take a decade or more to find
the oil and produce it.

Bush's latest drilling plan comes as lawmakers on Capitol
Hill wage a war of words over who is to blame for record-high
gasoline prices.

Republicans and Bush have repeatedly blamed Democrats for
blocking legislation that opens offshore lands and the Arctic
National Wildlife Refuge in Alaska to drilling.

"Democrats on Capitol Hill have rejected virtually every
proposal, and now Americans are paying the price at the pump
for this obstruction," Bush said.

About 60 percent of Americans support government moves to
encourage more oil drilling and refinery construction as a way
to combat soaring energy prices -- but the same number also
profess to be in favor of conservation, according to a
Reuters/Zogby poll released on Wednesday.

Republicans, including presidential candidate John McCain
who announced his position this week after opposing it in the
past, increasingly support lifting the ban on offshore oil

Barack Obama who is running for president, and fellow
Democrats, oppose it over environmental concerns and say such
action would have little immediate impact on fuel prices.

Bush's statement was the latest in a long-running blame
game between Democrats and Republicans over who shoulders the
blame for high fuel prices.

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

Environmental groups have long opposed expanded offshore
oil drilling, raising concerns about the dangers to fragile
ecosystems as well potential for oilspills that could mar the
U.S. coastline.

"The Bush-McCain plan is a gift to the oil companies that
endangers the economic and environmental health of the Jersey
Shore and our entire state," said Sen. Frank Lautenberg, a New
Jersey Democrat.

Bush also proposed an end to the ban on oil shale drilling,
and said the United States needs to expand its refining
capacity and proposed measures to speed up federal approval of
refinery building permits.

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