Democrats oppose the idea, saying oil companies already have millions of available drilling acres on land they are not using.
Senate Republicans on Wednesday blocked a wide-ranging Democratic measure that called for extending tax breaks to an array of renewable-energy entrepreneurs.
Senate Democrats said the tax breaks for renewable energy would lead to increased production from renewable-energy sources, such as wind, solar and battery power, and would lessen the nation’s dependency on oil. They added the bill would help create thousands of new jobs in the renewable-energy industry.
While Republican leaders said they generally supported the tax breaks, they opposed the bill in part because the tax credits would be offset with tax increases elsewhere in the budget.
Both chambers in recent days also failed to pass plans designed to counter oil-market speculation when Democrats failed to heed a Republican request for a vote on proposals to increase oil and gas drilling.
On Friday, a bipartisan coalition of 10 senators floated the idea of opening up new offshore drilling areas.
The group, dubbed the “Gang of 10,” announced a sweeping energy proposal designed to lower gasoline prices - a plan that includes opening up new offshore drilling areas off the coasts of Florida, Georgia, South Carolina and North Carolina. Drilling would be excluded within 50 miles of the coast.
Their plan called for increased efforts to move the nation’s motor vehicle fleets to fuels other than gasoline and diesel. To ease gas prices in the interim, the proposal includes significant conservation provisions, consumer tax credits and measures to increase domestic production.
The group members, who had been meeting for several weeks outside of party leadership, say they hope their compromise will generate a groundswell of support among the American people as well as their colleagues in Congress and lead to the development of comprehensive legislation to tackle the nation’s energy crisis.
“This growing [energy] crisis undermines the budgets of families across the nation [and] Congress needs to take immediate action,” said North Dakota Sen. Kent Conrad, a Democrat who along with Sen. Saxby Chambliss, Georgia Republican, spearheaded the plan. “This is not a Democratic issue, or a Republican issue - it is an issue that affects all of us.”
In a written statement released by his campaign, Mr. Obama welcomed the Gang of 10 proposal.
This article is based in part on wire service reports.