WASHINGTON President Bush included oil shale development in Utah on a list of things Congress can do to increase domestic oil supply and help reduce gas prices.
Bush pointed out that the administration has worked on alternative energy sources and gas savings technologies, such as a hydrogen fuel cell, but in the short term, the country needs more domestic production.
"Congress must face a hard reality: unless members are willing to accept gas prices at today's painful levels or even higher our nation must produce more oil," Bush said in a speech delivered in the White House Rose Garden. "And we must start now."
Bush said the equivalent of about 800 billion barrels of recoverable oil sits in the oil shale of the Green River Basin that crosses Colorado, Utah and Wyoming.
"That's more than three times larger than the proven oil reserves of Saudi Arabia," Bush said. "And it can be fully recovered and if it can be fully recovered it would be equal to more than a century's worth of currently projected oil imports."
Bush said that more companies have invested in technology to make oil shale production more affordable and efficient.
"While the cost of extracting oil from shale is still more than the cost of traditional production, it is also less than the current market price of oil," Bush said. "This makes oil shale a highly promising resource."
Bush urged Congress to remove a current ban on oil shale leasing on federal lands, which was inserted into a spending bill last year.
Gov. Jon Huntsman Jr., Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, and former Utah Rep. Jim Hansen all told the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee in May that the ban should be lifted.
In a statement released Wednesday after the speech, Rep. Chris Cannon, R-Utah, also said that domestic production, from oil shale, offshore drilling, and other endeavors, needed to increase. He was glad to have the support of the president, and applauded the "leadership" shown by Bush on the issue.
"For too long, we have been on bended knee to foreign potentates, while this country's vast energy sources go undeveloped," he said in the statement. "We can be energy independent. The time for talk is over. It is time to act."
Bush also wants to increase access to the Outer Continental Shelf, which could produce about 18 billion barrels of oil, he estimated.
"Congressional restrictions on OCS exploration have become outdated and counterproductive," Bush said.
He also pushed again for permitting exploration in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, known as ANWR, in Alaska.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., called Bush's speech "nothing more than a cynical campaign ploy that will do nothing to lower energy prices and represents another big giveaway to oil companies" who have been reporting profits as prices escalate at the pump.
"The facts are clear: oil companies have already had ample opportunity to increase supply, but they have sat on their hands," Reid said. "They aren't even using more than half of the public lands they already have leased for drilling. And despite the huge tax breaks President Bush and Republican Congresses have given oil and gas companies to invest in refineries, domestic production has actually dropped. "
Reid coupled Bush with presumptive Republican presidential nominee Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., saying that despite what they "and their friends in the oil industry claim, we cannot drill our way out of this problem.
E-mail: [email protected]