Bush renews call for offshore drilling

July 31st, 2008 - 1:47 am ICT by IANS  

Washington, July 31 (DPA) US President George W. Bush Wednesday renewed his call for lifting of a federal ban on oil drilling off the US coast and placed the blame for high petrol prices squarely at the feet of the Democratic-controlled Congress. Bush acknowledged the economic struggles plaguing the US population and said lifting the offshore drilling ban would help lower surging petrol prices.

“This is a difficult period for millions of American families. Every extra dollar they have to spend because of high gas prices is one less dollar they can use to put food on the table or to pay the rent or meet their mortgages,” Bush said.

Bush lifted an executive ban on offshore drilling earlier this month, a largely symbolic move because Congress has to lift its own ban, which has been in place since the 1980s and bars new licences except in the Gulf Coast states of Texas, Louisiana, Alabama, and off parts of Alaska.

His comments came as Congress was working furiously this week to agree on a major energy bill to provide relief to the consumers, before the US legislature heads into a month’s recess in August.

“The American people are rightly frustrated by the failure of Democratic leaders in Congress to enact common-sense solutions like the development of the oil resources on the outer continental shelf,” Bush said after a meeting with cabinet members.

Democrats have derided the measure as a political gimmick that will do little to reduce prices in the short term and could cause environmental damage to US coastlines, while existing licences for drilling off parts of the US coast are not being used by oil companies.

The opposition party has focussed instead on clamping down on energy speculators they blame for artificially raising crude oil prices, which topped $140 per barrel earlier this month.

Democratic leaders have also called for the president to tap into the country’s strategic petroleum reserve to increase supply immediately.

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