Bush wants Congress to allow offshore drilling


The president again pinned the prospect of oil drilling off the coastline -- considered a long-term energy solution -- to today's high gas prices for consumers.

"The American people are rightly frustrated by the failure of the Democratic leaders in Congress to enact commonsense solutions," the president said.

Bush acknowledged that development of oil resources in waters off the coastlines, an area known as the Outer Continental Shelf, would take time. But he said that only creates more urgency for Congress to lift its legislative ban on drilling in these protected waters before lawmakers leave Washington for summer break.

Bush has already lifted an executive ban on offshore drilling that had stood since his father was president. But that will have no effect unless Congress acts, too.

"All the Democratic leaders have to do is to allow a vote," Bush said. "They should not leave Washington without doing so."

The president gave essentially the same message on Tuesday to an audience of employees at a welding plant in Ohio. In his latest effort, his presidential prodding came with his Cabinet members standing behind him in the Rose Garden. He had just met with them on energy and other matters.

Both Congress and the president, plenty aware of American anger about gas prices, are scrambling to show some action.

Congress has been in a stalemate over energy legislation, with daily sniping between the parties over how to respond.

House and Senate Republicans have demanded a vote on opening new offshore waters -- long off limits for environmental reasons.

But House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., has ignored calls by Republican leaders for a vote on lifting the drilling bans in Atlantic and Pacific waters, arguing that oil companies already have vast areas available for drilling but have chosen not to do so.

"The president has failed in his economic policy, and now he wants to say, `But for drilling in protected areas offshore, our economy would be thriving and the price of gas would be lower,"' Pelosi said Wednesday. "That hoax is unworthy of the serious debate we must have to relieve the pain of consumers at the pump and to promote energy independence."

The House was expected to take up a measure to counter oil market speculation on Wednesday, but under procedures that prevent Republicans from trying to attach an oil drilling measure.

The Senate has been considering a similar market speculation bill for more than a week, but has become embroiled in a partisan dispute over GOP demands that the legislation be opened to a string of other energy proposals, including expansion of offshore oil development. Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., offered to take up four Republican proposals, including a drilling provision. Republicans rejected the overture, demanding a broader debate and action on energy.

As lawmakers move toward their annual August recess at the end of the week, it has become increasingly unlikely that substantive action on energy will be taken in Congress before fall despite hours of congressional rhetoric and public outcries. Only recently have high gas prices begun to recede.

Copyright © 2024 KGO-TV. All Rights Reserved.