Euclid, OHIO (Reuters) - President George W. Bush on Tuesday again called on Congress to pass legislation that would give energy companies access to billions of barrels of oil in U.S. waters where energy exploration is now banned.
Speaking to workers at a welding plant in Euclid, Ohio, Bush said gasoline prices are high because global oil supplies are not able to keep up with growing demand in countries like India and China, whose economies are strong and whose citizens are buying more cars.
To help bring down fuel prices, Bush said the United States needed to develop more of its oil resources, particularly those located offshore, which Bush said held enough supply to meet current U.S. oil demand for 10 years.
“It seems like we ought to be figuring out how to find more oil here in the United States,” Bush said.
Senate Republicans are pushing to modify a pending Democratic-backed energy speculation bill so it would also expand offshore oil drilling and allow the development of huge oil shale reserves in the West.
Bush earlier this month lifted a presidential order that had banned drilling in most U.S. waters and he demanded that Congress end its own drilling moratorium before lawmakers adjourn for their month-long recess in August.
“Now it’s up to the United States Congress to make a decision as to whether or not you’re going to continue to face high gasoline prices at the pump or whether or not the United States ought to send a clear signal to the world: We’re tired of being dependent on oil from overseas, let’s find it right here in the United States of America,” Bush said.
Democrats say oil companies should first drill on the millions of acres the firms have already leased from the government.
While the average price for U.S. gasoline is still $1 a gallon higher than a year ago, this week the national price fell below $4 a gallon for the first time in eight weeks, according to the Energy Department.
Gasoline prices are dropping because of the $25 a barrel decline this month in crude oil, which accounts for about 75 percent of the cost for making gasoline.
Pump prices are expected to keep falling in the coming weeks as the savings for refiners from cheaper crude is passed on to drivers.
Reporting by Tom Doggett; editing by Carol Bishopric