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 offshore leases they already hold.
President Bush this past week lifted an executive ban on drilling for more oil in America's Outer Continental Shelf, or OCS. In his weekly radio address, he says those areas could eventually produce nearly ten years worth of current U.S. annual oil production.
"Unfortunately, a full month has passed since I called on Congress to lift a similar legislative ban, and Congress has done nothing. This means that the only thing now standing between the American people and the vast oil resources of the OCS is action from the United States Congress," he said.
In the Democratic radio address, Washington Senator Patty Murray says Democrats support more offshore drilling but want oil companies to start with the more than 27 million hectares of land they have already leased from the federal government.
"That oil won't drill itself. We believe it is time for the oil companies to use that land and to make sure that it stays in America, instead of shipping it to the highest bidder overseas," said Murray.
Murray says Democrats also want President Bush to release onto the market some of America's 700,000 barrels of oil stored in a strategic petroleum reserve.
"When President Bush's father tapped into the oil reserve in 1991, prices went down immediately," said Murray. "I don't know what President Bush thinks, but four-and-a-half-dollars-a-gallon gas is an emergency for America's families. When was the last time the president filled his own tank?"
President Bush says he knows many families are worried about rising gas prices and declining home values. But he says tax rebates and business incentives enacted earlier this year are injecting new energy into the economy.
"Despite the challenges we have faced, our economy has demonstrated remarkable resilience," he said. "Exports have continued to grow, productivity growth has remained strong, and while economic growth in the first quarter of this year was slower than we would have liked, it was growth, nonetheless."
Oil prices edged higher in trading Friday after a three-day drop. U.S. consumer prices last month jumped the most since 2005 with higher costs for food and fuel. Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke says that has intensified risks for inflation.