Drilling ban: Calif. coastline at stake?

SACRAMENTO, Calif. State leaders in California didn't waste any time blasting President Bush for lifting the executive moratorium on offshore drilling. They fear the California coastline may be at stake.

"We would do everything we can to never have drilling offshore drilling here in California, off our coast. Our coast is very precious," said Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, (R) California.

President Bush said his plan would reduce record gas prices. However, a very reluctant Democratic Congress has refused to lift the 27-year-old prohibition.

"Democratic leaders can show that they have finally heard the frustrations of the American people by matching the action I've taken today," said President George Bush.

Most experts agree it would take at least seven years before benefits of overturning the ban would become evident. Even the oil industry cannot guarantee that prices would go down.

"What that effect is going to be precisely, I can't tell you. And really, nobody can tell you," said Tupper Hull, Western States Petroleum Association.

While pressure is mounting for Congress to do something about gas prices, state legislators pushed Washington not to lift the ban.

"You can't wait until it's too late. What you have to do is light the fire now. I want people upset. I want them angry. I want to say to President Bush, 'This is the wrong idea. It's the wrong direction,'" said Assemblyman Pedro Nava, who represents Santa Barbara, the state's only coastal area with offshore drilling.

While most Californians are environmentally conscious, gas prices appear to be slowly changing sentiments.

"I know the environment is very important, but at the same time, we can't pay for this gas that we have now," Whitney Brown, a California driver.

The U.S. Department of Interior estimates as much as 19 billion barrels of oil remain untapped in coastal areas that are currently off-limits to drillers. In the unlikely event that much is available, it would likely last just over two years at current consumption rates.


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