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Bush to Urge Lifting of Ban on Offshore Drilling

President George W. Bush will make an announcement on Wednesday about energy and call on Congress to pass legislation lifting a ban on offshore oil drilling, the White House said.

"With gasoline now over $4 a gallon, tomorrow he will explicitly call on Congress to also pass legislation lifting the congressional ban on safe, environmentally friendly offshore oil drilling," White House spokeswoman Dana Perino said on Tuesday.

Differences over energy policy has led to a political spat between Republicans and Democrats and emerged as a key issue in the presidential campaigns ahead of the November election.

Republicans have called for ending a ban on offshore drilling that has been in place since 1981, but Democrats have repeatedly rebuffed such attempts on environmental concerns.

In the race for the White House, Republican candidate John McCain supports ending the ban on offshore oil exploration and Democratic candidate Barack Obama opposes it.

Some experts say Bush could override congressional objections through an executive order, but Perino said: "The president is not taking any executive action tomorrow."

Bush has visited Saudi Arabia twice this year and sought help in dealing with record-high oil prices that threaten the U.S. economy.

U.S. wholesale prices rose by a larger-than-expected 1.4 percent in May after another jump in energy prices, according to the government's producer price index report released on Tuesday.

Bush was not expected to voice support specifically for any of several bills drafted in Congress to lift the ban on offshore oil drilling, but rather will call on Congress to pass legislation to accomplish that goal, a senior administration official said on condition of anonymity.

Bush and Republican lawmakers have also been pressing for opening up the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to oil exploration and drilling, which Democrats oppose.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi of California said last week that opening the wildlife refuge in Alaska would reduce U.S. gasoline prices by one penny per gallon, and she and other Democrats blame Bush's energy policies for the rise in gasoline prices.

Bush has blamed Democrats, who control Congress, for blocking efforts to increase domestic oil production.

"The president believes Congress shouldn't waste any more time," Perino said.

Congressional Democrats have opposed lifting those prohibitions. The moratorium has been in effect for more than 80 percent of federal Outer Continental Shelf waters for more than a quarter-century and includes both the East and West coasts.