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Bush urges offshore oil drilling


Bush urges offshore oil drilling

Petrol prices on display in Beverly Hills, California, on 13 June

Petrol prices are part of the wider energy policy debate

President George W Bush is to ask Congress to end a 27-year ban on drilling for oil in US coastal waters, the White House says.

Mr Bush’s move comes as consumers are calling for action to tackle high oil prices that have pushed prices at the pump to over $4 (£2) a gallon.

US energy needs are set to be a key issue in November’s presidential poll.

Republican John McCain favours offshore oil drilling while his Democratic rival, Barack Obama, opposes it.

Mr Bush was due to make a statement at about 1000 local time (1400 GMT) on Wednesday, in which he would “explicitly call on Congress to… pass legislation lifting the congressional ban on safe, environmentally-friendly offshore oil drilling,” said White House spokeswoman Dana Perino.

“The president believes Congress shouldn’t waste any more time.”

US dependence

Since 1981, a congressional moratorium has prohibited oil and gas drilling along the east and west coasts and in the eastern Gulf of Mexico, an area accounting for some 80% of the US’s Outer Continental Shelf.


Estimated reserves:
18bn barrels of recoverable oil
77 trillion cubic feet of natural gas
US annual energy usage: 
7.6bn barrels of oil
21 trillion cubic feet of gas
Source: US interior department

The federal ban was enacted in part to protect tourism and lessen the chance of oil spills washing on to beaches.

The Democrats, and some Republicans who represent coastal states, oppose ending the moratorium.

Mr Bush, who has repeatedly pushed for an end to the ban, has accused Democrats of using their control of Congress to undermine attempts to boost domestic oil production.

The president is also expected to renew his call for the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge in Alaska to be opened up to drilling.


Senator McCain, the Republicans’ presumptive presidential candidate, is opposed to opening up Alaska and had previously backed the moratorium on drilling in coastal waters.

But speaking in Houston on Tuesday, Mr McCain called for the ban to be lifted to help counter US dependence on foreign oil.

“This was a troubling situation 35 years ago. It was an alarming situation 20 years ago. It is a dangerous situation today,” he said.

“And starting in the term of the next president, we must take control over our own energy future and become once again the master of our fate.”

Mr McCain said the US had enormous energy reserves and was acquiring methods of using them in clean and responsible ways.

“As for offshore drilling, it’s safe enough these days that not even Hurricanes Katrina and Rita could cause significant spillage from the battered rigs off the coasts of New Orleans and Houston,” he said.


Justinj Webb
 John McCain’s drilling U-turn suggests he grasps… that this election will be won or lost on the price of a gallon of gas
Justin Webb
BBC North America editor


“Yet for reasons that become less convincing with every rise in the price of foreign oil, the federal government discourages offshore production.”

Senator Obama dismissed Mr McCain’s call as “political posturing” that would not bring down petrol prices and could endanger the country’s coastal environment.

“His decision to completely change his position and tell a group of Houston oil executives exactly what they wanted to hear today was the same Washington politics that has prevented us from achieving energy independence for decades,” Mr Obama said.

Mr Obama has called for conservation and the search for alternative green energy supplies.

Analysts say drilling for offshore oil and developing alternatives will both prove slow to reduce US dependence on imported oil. 
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