- The Washington Times - Monday, July 14, 2008

President Bush is upping the ante Monday in the debate with the Democratic Congress over offshore domestic drilling, announcing he will lift the executive branch ban, to increase pressure on legislators to follow suit.

Almost a month ago, Mr. Bush called on Congress to lift their ban on offshore drilling and said he would lift the presidential ban, instituted by his father in 1990, whenever Democrats did the same.

Today, however, he is doing what many said he should have done then acting unilaterally and leading by example to put maximum stress on Democrats opposition to offshore drilling.

The political calculation is that with gas heading toward $5 a gallon for car drivers, public demand for some meaningful action has grown so intense that Democrats will be forced to capitulate or suffer the consequences.

The upcoming presidential election only maximizes the potential negative political effect for Democrats.

We wanted to work with Congress on it. The Democratic leaders in Congress have not shown a willingness to move forward, said White House press secretary Dana Perino Monday morning.

Were going to move forward. Hopefully that will spur action by Congress. The ball is now squarely in their court. Im sure Americans will be watching what they do, she said.

The White House, and many oil market experts, say that opening up the Outer Continental Shelf along U.S. coasts, along with the Arctic National Wildlife Reserve, will send a meaningful signal to the market and bring down costs.

They also contend that until the U.S. transportation and manufacturing sectors are able to diversify their energy away from oil and toward other fuels, the U.S. must increase their domestic output.

Democrats have largely already been forced to agree with that conclusion, but continue to oppose drilling in the OCS and ANWR, which are said to contain about 18 billion and 10 billion barrels of oil respectively.

Democratic leaders and are calling on the president to release a small portion of oil from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve. They have already passed a law to temporarily stop the administration from continuing to fill the SPR, which is currently at 700 million barrels of oil.

Taking oil out of the Strategic Petroleum Reserve in a careful, responsible way is the fastest way to bring down the price at the pump, said House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, California Democrat, last week.

Democrats also say that oil companies are sitting on about 70 million acres of leased oil fields off of U.S. coasts that are open for drilling, but are declining to do so to drive up prices and maximize profits.

The White House rejected that idea.

It doesnt make economic sense to think that anyone is sitting on any extra oil that they could be selling, Mrs. Perino said.

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