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US President Wants More Offshore Drilling

U.S. President George Bush is again calling on opposition Democrats in Congress to expand offshore oil drilling. VOA White House Correspondent Scott Stearns reports, high energy prices are a big part of this year's presidential campaign.

When lawmakers return to work next month, President Bush says they should allow for more offshore oil drilling. In his weekly radio address, he says he has lifted executive limits on that drilling and it is time for Congress to end its offshore ban.

"This exploration is now banned by a provision included in the annual interior appropriations bill," the president said. "When Congress returns they should remove this restriction so we can get these vast oil resources from the ocean floor to your gas tank."

Democrats say they generally support more offshore drilling but want oil companies to start by exploring the more than 27 million hectares of land they are already leasing from the federal government.

In the Democratic radio address, New Hampshire Senate candidate Jeanne Shaheen says President Bush and his Republican party have driven America's economy into the ground.

"They have protected billions in tax give-aways for big oil and tax loopholes for businesses who ship jobs overseas rather than making a serious commitment to the development of clean alternative energy that can transform our economy and create thousands of new jobs," she said.

Public opinion polls show many voters are concerned about high energy prices, so that is a part of this year's presidential campaign.

The Republican Party's national committee is running a television commercial backing the president's call for more offshore drilling. The Republican ad champions the energy policy of its presidential candidate, Arizona Senator John McCain, over the Democratic opponent, Illinois Senator Barrack Obama.

The Obama campaign is running a commercial that seeks to link McCain with President Bush and what Obama says is a White House that has been too close to big oil companies.

A public opinion poll by CBS News and The New York Times this past week asked voters what is the most important thing for them in deciding the next president. Forty percent said the economy and jobs. Gas prices and energy policy tied for second with the war in Iraq at 15 percent.