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Bush, McCain Would Lift Ban on Offshore Oil Drilling
WASHINGTON, DC, June 18, 2008 (ENS) - President George W. Bush today called on Congress to expand domestic oil production to lower record high oil and gas prices by lifting a ban on oil exploration in the Outer Continental Shelf that has been in place since 1981.

Drilling for oil offshore is one of four measures the president proposed to increase U.S. oil production - all of them certain to meet resistance from the Democratic Congressional leadership.

Bush says America should develop oil shale in the Green River Basin of Colorado, Utah, and Wyoming; he again proposed drilling in Alaska's Arctic National Wildlife Refuge; and he also again proposed increasing refinery capacity.

With U.S. Interior Secretary Dirk Kempthorne at his side, President George W. Bush today called on Congress to expand domestic oil production. (Photo by Luke Sharrett courtesy the White House)

In his speech in the Rose Garden at the White House this morning, the president blamed Congress for blocking these methods of oil production, saying, "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."

"If congressional leaders leave for the 4th of July 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 oil - how high gas prices have to rise before the Democratic-controlled Congress will do something about it," Bush said.

"The proposals I've outlined will take years to have their full impact. There is no excuse for delay - as a matter of fact, it's a reason to move swiftly," he said.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, a California Democrat, said last night in advance of the president' energy speech, "The President's proposal sounds like another page from the Administration's Energy Policy that was literally written by the oil industry: give away more public resources to the very same oil companies that are sitting on 68 million acres of federal lands they've already leased."

If oil companies tapped the 68 million federal acres of leased land it would generate an estimated 4.8 million barrels of oil a day - six times what the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge would produce at its peak, Pelosi said.

"The fact is 80 percent of the oil available on the Outer Continental Shelf is in regions that are already open to leasing, but the oil companies haven't decided it's worth their time to drill there," the speaker said.

In defense of what the Democratic leadership has done since it won control of Congress in 2006, Pelosi said, "In just the last year, Congress has promoted energy independence by raising efficiency standards for vehicles for the first time in 32 years, investing in American-grown biofuels, and forcing President Bush to increase gas supplies by suspending government purchases for the Strategic Petroleum Reserve."

"We have provided enforcement tools to go after those who are speculating on oil and manipulating the price and we will continue to push for solutions that end our dependence on foreign oil," she said.

Bush says that Offshore oil drilling can now be done safely. "Advances in technology have made it possible to conduct oil exploration in the Outer Continental Shelf, OCS, that is out of sight, protects coral reefs and habitats, and protects against oil spills," he said today. "With these advances - and a dramatic increase in oil prices - congressional restrictions on OCS exploration have become outdated and counterproductive."

Offshore oil rig in U.S. waters (Photo courtesy Minerals Management Service)

"There's also an executive prohibition on exploration in the OCS. When Congress lifts the legislative ban, I will lift the executive prohibition," the president said.

Presumptive Republican presidential nominee Senator John McCain of Arizona also called for an increase in domestic oil production from offshore drilling Tuesday during a speech in Houston, Texas, which the candidate called "the oil capital of America."

"The price of a gallon of gas in America stands at more than four dollars. Yesterday, a barrel of oil cost about 134 dollarsm" said McCain. "And various oil ministers and investment firms have confidently informed us that soon we can expect to pay 200 dollars for every barrel, and as much as seven dollars for every gallon of gas."

McCain said he does not support drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, but he does support offshore oil drilling.

"We have proven oil reserves of at least 21 billion barrels in the United States. But a broad federal moratorium stands in the way of energy exploration and production," said McCain. "And I believe it is time for the federal government to lift these restrictions and to put our own reserves to use."

"We can do this in ways that are consistent with sensible standards of environmental protection. And in states that choose to permit exploration, there must be an appropriate sharing of benefits between federal and state governments. But as a matter of fairness to the American people, and a matter of duty for our government, we must deal with the here and now, and assure affordable fuel for America by increasing domestic production," he said.

McCain also recognized the dangers of climage change, but said to deal with global warming, America must first insulate itself from "the sudden shocks and ever-rising prices that come with our dependence on foreign oil."

"In the face of climate change and other serious challenges, energy conservation is no longer just a moral luxury or a personal virtue," McCain said. Conservation serves a critical national goal."

"Over time, we must shift our entire energy economy toward a sustainable mix of new and cleaner power sources," he said. "This will include some we use already, such as wind, solar, biofuels, and other sources yet to be invented. It will include a variety of new automotive and fuel technologies, clean-burning coal and nuclear energy, and a new system of incentives, under a cap-and-trade policy, to put the power of the market on the side of environmental protection."

The energy plan of presumptive Democratic presidential nomineee Senator Barack Obama of Illinois does not feature offshore oil drilling.

"John McCain's plan to simply drill our way out of our energy crisis is the same misguided approach backed by President Bush that has failed our families for too long and only serves to benefit the big oil companies," Obama spokesman Hari Sevugan told the "Washington Post."

Obama says his plan will reduce oil consumption by at least 35 percent, or 10 million barrels per day, by 2030. This will more than offset the equivalent of the oil we would import from OPEC nations in 2030.

Obama says that as president he would double fuel economy standards within 18 years. His plan would provide retooling tax credits and loan guarantees for domestic auto plants and parts manufacturers, so that they can build new fuel-efficient cars rather than overseas companies. Obama would also invest in advanced vehicle technology such as advanced lightweight materials and new engines.

Environmental groups began immediately to denounce President Bush's energy policy as what the Wilderness Society call an "abject failure."

"At a time when creative thinking is urgently needed, President Bush's approach does not provide real solutions or move the country toward a more forward-thinking energy policy," said David Alberswerth, senior energy policy advisor for the Wilderness Society.

"From day one, his administration promoted a 'drill everything' agenda, but the only result has been record high energy prices for average Americans, record profits for oil companies, and more degradation of our Western public lands from their reckless development policies," he said.

To relieve fuel prices, said Alberswerth, America should instead move into the 21st century with measures that will conserve American energy use and speed the development of renewable energy sources. "Such approaches cut American demand for oil and provide true relief at the pump."

But industry approves of President Bush's proposals. The National Association of Manufacturers, NAM, today praised the president for pressing Congress to lift the legislative ban on offshore drilling on the Outer Continental Shelf and said his call to utilize oil shale and open ANWR to exploration and expand refinery capacity is "right on target."

"America is facing a significant energy shortage and crisis," said Jay Timmons, NAM executive vice president. "We urge the executive and legislative branches, Republicans and Democrats alike, to step forward in a positive, bi-partisan way to help ease the problem."

Copyright Environment News Service (ENS) 2008. All rights reserved.

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