Voters want energy plan, Bush says

President Bush says if Congress doesn't permit offshore drilling to increase U.S. oil supplies and possibly ease gasoline prices, lawmakers should not expect voters to support them in November.

In his Saturday radio address, Bush said experts claim the Outer Continental Shelf could eventually produce nearly 10 years' worth of oil production. Yet while high fuel prices have focused attention on increasing domestic energy production, experts also note that lifting the congressional ban on offshore drilling wouldn't produce more oil for five to seven years.

Bush accused Democratic leaders in Congress of ignoring the public's demand for relief from energy prices.

“This is their final chance to take action before the November elections,” Bush said, noting that lawmakers soon will recess again to hit the campaign trail. “If members of Congress do not support the American people at the gas pump, then they should not expect the American people to support them at the ballot box.”

Congress broke for its August recess without agreeing on how big a role expanded domestic oil and gas production should have in a broader energy bill. Lawmakers return Monday for a three-week session before leaving again to campaign for the November elections.

There are glimmers of movement on an energy bill, which has eluded Congress all year, mostly over Democratic reluctance to open up more offshore areas to oil drilling.

A senior House Democratic aide, who spoke on condition of anonymity because the final energy package had not yet been assembled, said the offshore drilling proposal will be similar to a compromise that has been floated in the Senate.

The proposal would allow oil and gas drilling in federal waters off the East Coast, including the Carolinas, and off Florida in the eastern Gulf of Mexico with a 50-mile protected buffer from shore according to the aide. States would be allowed to “opt in” to drilling in federal waters off their coasts, with a portion of the royalties going to the states.