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Bush Encouraged by Early Reports of Gustav Aftermath

U.S. President George Bush says there are "encouraging signs" that Hurricane Gustav did less damage to America's oil infrastructure than Hurricane Katrina three years ago. White House says President Bush will travel to Louisiana Wednesday to look at the damage caused by Gustav. VOA White House Correspondent Scott Stearns has the story.

President Bush met with more than a dozen senior aides including the secretaries of the interior, transportation, and energy for a first look at Hurricane Gustav's impact on oil facilities a day after the storm tore through the southern Gulf states of Louisiana and Mississippi.

"The Gulf Coast region produces a lot of energy for the United States. And we are now in the process of assessing any damage done to the infrastructure. It is a little early right now to come up with a solid assessment. There are some encouraging signs," he said.

For example, the president says it does not appear that oil rigs in the Gulf broke from their anchors and dragged across underwater pipelines as some did three years ago during Hurricane Katrina.

President Bush and Gulf Coast officials were widely criticized for their poor response to that storm. Federal, state, and local governments appear to have been better prepared this time.

President Bush visited emergency workers and evacuees Monday in Texas. He used his energy briefing Tuesday to again call for opposition Democrats in Congress to allow more offshore oil drilling.

"They need to give us a chance to find more oil and gas here at home. I would much rather American consumers be buying gasoline produced from American oil than from foreign oil. I would rather our dollars stay at home then go overseas," added Mr. Bush. "I know the Congress has been on recess for a little while, but this issue has not gone away."

The president says Gustav should not cause Congress to back away from greater energy independence, but should instead make lawmakers step up their work to expand oil production on the Outer Continental Shelf.

The storm halted onshore and offshore oil operations in the Gulf, but some firms are already positioning equipment and personnel to resume operations.

The price of oil fell more than $8 a barrel in trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange as investors appear confident that the storm did little lasting damage to the oil infrastructure.

Forecasters have downgraded Gustav to a tropical depression. It is expected to continue losing strength as it moves across western Louisiana and into Texas.