President Bush on Monday lifted an executive order that banned off-shore drilling, increasing pressure on Congress to follow suit.
"With this action, the executive branch’s restrictions on this exploration have been cleared away. This means that the only thing standing between the American people and these vast oil resources is action from the U.S. Congress," Mr. Bush said. "The time for action is now. This is a difficult period for millions of American families. They are rightly angered by Congress’ failure to enact common sense solutions."
The order banning domestic off-shore drilling was signed in 1990 by former President George H.W. Bush. Congress passed it own ban 27 years ago, which remains in effect.
Earlier in the day, White House press secretary Dana Perino said the President needed to act because the Democratic-led Congress was taking no action on the issue.
"They haven’t even held a single hearing," Perino said. "So we are going to move forward, and hopefully that will spur action by the Congress. The ball is now squarely in their court. I’m sure Americans will be watching what they do."
The Obama campaign criticized Mr. Bush’s move. "If offshore drilling would provide short-term relief at the pump or a long-term strategy for energy independence, it would be worthy of our consideration, regardless of the risks. But most experts, even within the Bush Administration, concede it would do neither," said Obama spokesman Bill Burton. "It would merely prolong the failed energy policies we have seen from Washington for thirty years. Senator Obama believes Americans need real short-term relief, which is why he has proposed a second round of stimulus with energy rebates for working families."
Bush says offshore drilling could yield 18 billion barrels of oil. While any increase in oil production would take years, proponents say the move could put pressure on speculators as the price of a barrel of oil keeps rising –hitting $145 per barrel in trading today.