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Bush Renews Call for Expanded Domestic Oil Drilling

President Bush is again urging Congress to authorize expanded domestic oil drilling in order to combat record-high gasoline prices. VOA's Michael Bowman reports from the White House, where Mr. Bush spoke after a cabinet meeting, one day after speaking to workers at a factory in Ohio on the same topic.

Despite a dip in global oil prices during the past week, Americans are paying more than twice as much for gasoline as they did just a few years ago.

President Bush says the price spike is the result of basic economic forces: global demand for oil that is growing faster than the supply.

Speaking from the Rose Garden, Mr. Bush said there is a clear solution.

"To reduce pressure on prices, we need to increase the supply of oil - especially here at home," said President Bush.

For weeks, the president has urged the Democrat-controlled Congress to rescind a ban on new off-shore drilling, which he says could provide as much as 10 years worth of oil at current U.S. consumption levels.

"The time for action is now," said Mr. Bush. "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, pay the rent or meet [pay] their mortgages. The American people are rightly frustrated by the failure of Democratic leaders in Congress to enact common-sense solutions like the development of oil resources on the outer-continental shelf."

Democratic congressional leaders point out that, according to petroleum experts, it would take a decade or more before new oil exploration yielded significant supplies of crude, and that the actual impact on gasoline prices would likely be marginal.

Instead, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has urged the administration to tap into America's stockpile of emergency fuel, known as the Strategic Petroleum Reserve, while focusing on conservation and alternative sources of energy.

President Bush says draining the emergency stockpile makes no sense when new sources of oil can be exploited at home. Mr. Bush has also endorsed higher fuel efficiency standards for automobiles and greater investment in alternative energy.

Polls show Americans rate economic issues, including high energy prices, as their top concerns.