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Podium: We need to get the oil from the ocean into your tank

Before they left Washington for their August recess, Congress failed to take action on an issue that is currently of great concern to Americans: high prices at the gas pump.

The fundamental reason for high gasoline prices is that the supply of oil is not keeping pace with demand. To reduce pressure on prices, we need to increase the supply of oil, especially oil produced here at home. So in June, I called on Congress to open up more of America's domestic oil resources for exploration – including offshore exploration of the Outer Continental Shelf. The American people overwhelmingly support this proposal. But throughout the summer, the leaders of the Democratic Congress have refused to allow it to come to a vote.

Now that the pressure to take action has become overwhelming, Democratic leaders in Congress have changed their strategy. Rather than attempting to block expanded drilling by preventing a vote, they are now attempting to block it by bringing up a bill that is designed to fail.

News reports indicate that Democratic leaders in Congress may plan to hold a vote on a bill that would make us more dependent on foreign oil and would likely make energy costs go up, not down. This bill would raise taxes on energy companies – which would reduce domestic production. This bill would make the nation more vulnerable to supply shocks by tapping into our emergency supply of oil – the Strategic Petroleum Reserve. And it would impose a rigid national mandate that would increase electricity costs.

Democratic leaders know that these counterproductive proposals will not become law. Yet they seem ready to push this legislation as a way to block offshore drilling while appearing to be in favour of it. They need to stop standing in the way of expanding domestic production and take meaningful steps now to address the pain caused by high energy prices.

I proposed a comprehensive approach to our energy problems that would permit a range of new drilling options and encourage the development of alternative resources. If Democratic leaders will not approve this comprehensive approach, the very least they should do when they return in September is to take action on three common-sense energy solutions that enjoy bipartisan support.

Congress should open the way for environmentally responsible offshore exploration on the Outer Continental Shelf. Experts believe that these areas could eventually produce nearly 10 years' worth of America's current annual oil production. This exploration is now banned by a provision included in the annual interior appropriations bill. When Congress returns they should remove this restriction – so we can get these vast oil resources from the ocean floor to your gas tank.

Taken from George Bush's weekly radio address to the nation