Bush joins congressional Republicans in calling for OCS moratorium vote

US President George W. Bush urged the Democratic congressional majority to schedule a vote on opening more of the Outer Continental Shelf to oil and gas leasing when federal lawmakers return from their August recess.

"Members have now had an opportunity to hear from their constituents, and if they listen carefully I think they'll hear what I heard today: A lot of Americans from all walks of life wonder why we can't come together and get legislation necessary to end the ban on offshore drilling," Bush said following an Aug. 12 White House meeting with the Coalition for Affordable American Energy.

He said he was joining US House Republicans in urging Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) to schedule an OCS vote as soon as possible. "The way ahead is this: The moratorium on offshore drilling is included in the provisions of the [US Department of the Interior] appropriations bill. When Congress returns, they should immediately bring this bill to the House floor and schedule an up or down vote on whether to lift the moratorium on offshore drilling," he said.

Bush said that the bill should not include any provisions inserted expressly to defeat it. "The Democratic leadership should bring up a clean bill, give the members a chance to vote up or down . . . and not insert any legislative poison pills. Our goal should be to enact a law that reflects the will of the overwhelming majority of Americans who want to open up oil resources on the Outer Continental Shelf," he maintained.

Other steps

Congress also should authorize leasing on the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge's coastal plain, development of federal oil shale leasing regulations and incentives to expand US refining capacity as part of a comprehensive energy strategy that includes conservation, alternatives and renewables, the president continued. "But a part of solving the dilemma that hard-working Americans face . . . the high price of gasoline . . . [is more] exploration here in America. And we can do it in a way that protects the environment," he said.

Bush's remarks followed a meeting with the CFAAE, which a group of business organizations formed in mid-July to press Congress and the administration to produce more US energy in an environmentally sensitive manner.

"There is no way to separate the issue of energy from the issue of economy. These issues are absolutely linked together, so if we're going to talk about a strong economy long-term, then we need to get a fix on reliable energy supplies," said Don Sterhan, chief executive of the Mountain Plains Equity Group, an affordable housing developer in Billings, Mont., and chairman of the US Chamber of Commerce's Environment and Energy Committee.

Dyke Messinger, president of Power Curbers Inc., a 55-year-old family-owned manufacturing business in Salisbury, NC, and a member of the National Association of Manufacturers' board of directors, said that manufacturers feel higher energy costs more than other US business sectors because they are least able to pass them on to customers. "While manufacturers can raise productivity and manage costs for the inputs that go into products, they cannot address structural costs, of which energy is the biggest, without strong leadership from elected officials," he said.

"One of the things that came out in this discussion was there's a lot of folks in our country who understand we could be doing something about the high price of gasoline, and we're not. Obviously, we need to be wise about conservation, but we've got to be wise about increasing the supply of oil here in America. If you're concerned about the price of gasoline, one way to affect that . . . is to increase oil supplies," Bush said following the meeting.

Contact Nick Snow at nicks@pennwell.com

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