U.S. President George Bush wants Congress to
expand offshore oil drilling to help bring down record high gasoline prices. VOA
White House Correspondent Scott Stearns reports, opposition Democrats say oil
companies should start by using the offshore leases they already
President Bush says rising energy
costs are hurting the U.S. economy, so he wants Congress to expand oil drilling
on America's Outer Continental Shelf (OCS).
"Experts believe that the OCS
that is currently off-limits could produce enough oil to match America's current
production for almost ten years," he noted. "The problem is that Congress has
restricted access to key parts of the OCS since the early 1980s. Since that
time, technological advances have allowed us to explore oil offshore in ways
that protect the environment."
In his weekly radio address, the president
said once Congress lifts its legislative ban on more offshore drilling, he will
remove presidential restrictions.
In the Democratic radio address,
Maryland Congressman Chris Van Hollen said Democrats support more drilling but
want oil companies to explore the more than 27 million hectares of land they
have already leased from the federal government.
"What the president
hasn't told you is that the oil companies are already sitting on 68 million
acres of federal lands with the potential to nearly double U.S. oil production,"
he said. "That is why in the coming days congressional Democrats will vote on
use-it-or-lose it legislation requiring the big oil companies to develop these
resources or lose their leases to someone else who will."
also wants congressional Democrats to allow for drilling in an Alaskan wildlife
refuge, action that environmentalists have successfully blocked for
"Scientists have developed innovative techniques to
reach this oil with virtually no impact on the land or local wildlife," he
added. "With a drilling footprint that covers just a tiny fraction of this vast
terrain, America could produce an estimated 10 billion barrels of oil. That is
roughly the equivalent of two decades of imported oil from Saudi
Van Hollen says the Energy Department estimates that drilling
today in the Alaskan wildlife refuge would not deliver any petroleum to U.S.
pumps for ten years. He says more drilling in Alaska would save consumers about
two cents a gallon 20 years from now.
"When Americans are getting sticker
shock every time they pull into the gas station, we don't have 20 years to wait.
We need action, real action," he said.
Van Hollen says Democrats want
President Bush to release some of the gasoline in the nation's Strategic
Petroleum Reserve and focus more on alternative sources of energy.
touched a record high of more than $147 per barrel Friday before closing at just
over $145 per barrel. U.S. stocks fell for their sixth straight week, averaging
loses of about 16 percent for the year so far.