US President George W. Bush on Saturday tried to pin the blame on Congress for soaring energy prices and said lawmakers need to lift long-standing restrictions on drilling for oil in pristine lands and offshore tracts believed to hold huge reserves of fuel.
"It's time for members of Congress to address the pain that high gas prices are causing our citizens," the president said. "Every extra dollar that American families spend because of high gas prices is one less dollar they can use to put food on the table or send a child to college. The American people deserve better."
With gasoline prices above $4 a gallon, Bush and his Republican allies think Americans are less reluctant to allow drilling offshore and in an Alaska wildlife refuge that environmentalists have fought successfully for decades to protect. Nearly half the people surveyed by the Pew Research Center in late June said they now consider energy exploration and drilling more important than conservation, compared with a little over a third who felt that way only five months ago. The sharpest shift in attitude came among political liberals.
Democrats say they are for drilling, but argue that oil companies aren't going after the oil where they already have leases. So why open new, protected areas? they ask. Democrats say there are 68 million acres of federal land and waters where oil and gas companies hold leases, but aren't producing oil.