White House Trying to Grease Skids for Oil Drilling

The Bush Administration is trying to smooth the permitting process for oil exploration in an effort to relieve the energy burden, an Energy Department official said on CNBC.

Jeff Kupfer, the department's acting deputy secretary, said opening up the process is a priority for the administration in its closing days.

"There are permits that are already in process," Kupfer said. "We're trying to lay the groundwork to try to improve the permitting procedures that we have. There's no question that it's taken too long."

If the administration has its way the new process will give the Energy secretary more control and try to reduce some of the bureaucratic hurdles currently in place.

Kupfer said the administration recognizes the burden that high gasoline prices are placing on consumers, but rejected the suggestion that the biggest issue is speculation in the trading pits.

"Prices are too high, and the fundamentals are really what's driving those prices," he said. "We all know about supply and demand. It's a pretty basic concept, and so it's important for us to increase supply and do everything we can do make sure that there's available supply out there to help moderate prices."