China's Drilling for Oil in America's Backyard, Republicans Say

By Susan Jones | July 7, 2008 | 8:33 PM EDT

(Update: Vice President Dick Cheney's office acknowledged on June 12 that he was mistaken when he asserted that China, at Cuba's behest, is drilling for oil in waters 60 miles from the Florida coast. In a speech to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, Cheney said on Wednesday that waters in the eastern Gulf of Mexico, long off limits to oil companies, should be opened to drilling because China is already there pumping oil.)

( - House Republicans want the American people to know that right now -- around 60 miles off the coast of Key West, Fla. -- China is drilling for oil, thanks to a lease issued by Cuba.

But 1,200 miles north of Key West, Democrats in Washington are blocking the United States from conducting its own environmentally-safe oil and gas exploration in similar U.S. coastal areas, said a news release from House Republican leader John Boehner's office.

"By prohibiting the United States from taking part in the same type of energy exploration that the Chinese are conducting just miles off our shores, the Democratic Majority on Capitol Hill continues to prove itself complicit in an energy crisis that has saddled American families and small businesses with gas prices that have reached $4.05 per gallon today," the news release said.

"Do congressional Democrats actually believe China has more ingenuity and more concern for the environment than the United States?" Republicans asked.

On Wednesday, the U.S. Energy Department said gasoline prices are expected to remain close to $4 a gallon through 2009.

Republicans are pushing an energy plan that would expand domestic oil exploration and production; encourage the opening of new American oil refineries; and invest in alternative energy sources such as wind, nuclear, and captured carbon dioxide.

Drill here, drill now

In a related story, a group that advocates domestic oil drilling says it has gathered more than half a million signatures on a 'Drill Here, Drill Now, Pay Less' petition.

The group American Solutions for Winning the Future, chaired by former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, says it launched the petition drive a few weeks ago.

The petition reads: "We, therefore, the undersigned citizens of the United States, petition the U.S. Congress to act immediately to lower gasoline prices (and diesel and other fuel prices) by authorizing the exploration of proven energy reserves to reduce our dependence on foreign energy sources from unstable countries."

"Hard-working American families are struggling to pay the soaring prices for gas, diesel, food, electricity, and everything else affected by the high price of oil," said Dave Ryan, American Solutions' executive director. "The voices of more than half a million Americans are united in demanding that Congress offer real solutions to our energy challenges, starting with taking immediate action to drill here and drill now."

American Solutions said it plans to deliver 3 million signatures to both parties at their national conventions.

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