US President George W. Bush lifted yesterday an executive ban on offshore
oil drilling, while calling on Congress to act as well.
"The American people are watching the numbers climb higher and higher at the
pump and they're waiting to see what the Congress will do," Bush told reporters
"Now the ball is squarely in Congress' court," said the president. "The time
for action is now."
"Failure to act is unacceptable," he said, noting Americans are "paying at
There are two prohibitions on offshore drilling, one imposed by Congress and
another by executive order signed by former President George H.W. Bush in 1990.
Bush, in his final months of office, has repeatedly urged the
Democrats-dominant Congress to lift legislative restrictions on such activity
before they begin a recession in August.
The US economy suffers from gasoline prices hike that has reached over US$4 a
gallon (3.785 liter), and US Congress and the White House are stressing
different ways to ease the oil crisis.
The White House insisted that increase in US oil drilling will help to deal
with the soaring gas prices.
"Crude oil prices are up and one reason crude oil prices are up is because
demand is outstripping supply," the president said last week.
"Now the only thing standing between consumers at the pump and the increased
American energy they are demanding is the Democrat leadership in Congress," also
said Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell. "We should act and act now."
However, many Democrats in the Congress refused to lift the drilling ban,
noting oil companies already have 68 million acres under government leases they
can drill and any new oil from now-closed offshore areas would not be available
for five to 10 years.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has renewed her request to President Bush for more
government-held oil in the Strategic Petroleum Reserve to be released onto the
market to check prices, which has been always resisted by the president.
"Right now the president has 700 million barrels of oil. He can release a
small percent of it, less than 10 percent of it; have immediate impact on the
price at the pump now, within 10 days, not within 10 years," Pelosi said.
"Let's be clear: Democrats support increasing the domestic production of
petroleum and other energy resources," also said House Majority Leader Steny
Hoyer last week.
He said the legislation would speed up development of the National Petroleum
Reserve in Alaska, and reimpose a ban on foreign export of Alaskan oil.
Bush's move was immediately condemned by environmentalists who said drilling
would not end U.S. dependence on oil or cut the prices at the pump.
"The solutions to this problem are not off our coasts," Athan Manuel,
director of lands protection for Sierra Club, said. "The US does not contain
enough oil to influence the world market."
Earlier Monday, White House spokeswoman Dana Perino said initially the
president wanted to lift the executive ban in concert with Congress but decided
to go ahead alone due to strong opposition from the Democrats.
"It has been nearly a month since the president urged the Congress to act to
expand environmentally-friendly and responsible exploration for American
energy," Perino told reporters.
"Congress has not moved forward despite calls from constituents and the
continued pressure of record high energy prices," she said.