U.S. President Barack Obama, under pressure from Republicans and the public to bring down gasoline prices, announced new measures on Saturday to expand domestic oil production in Alaska and the Gulf of Mexico.
High fuel prices have dented Obama's poll ratings and threaten to dampen the economic recovery that is critical to his re-election in 2012.
The president, a Democrat, has pushed for reducing U.S. oil consumption and expanding renewable energy sources while also focusing on domestic oil and gas production -- an area Republicans want to expand dramatically.
In his weekly radio and Internet address, the president met some of those Republican demands, outlining ways to boost drilling and better coordinate the process of issuing permits in Alaska.
"I am directing the Department of Interior to conduct annual lease sales in Alaska's National Petroleum Reserve, while respecting sensitive areas, and to speed up the evaluation of oil and gas resources in the mid and south Atlantic," he said in the address. The lease sales would begin later this year.
"We plan to lease new areas in the Gulf of Mexico as well, and work to create new incentives for industry to develop their unused leases both on and offshore."
Government lease sales give energy companies the opportunity to rent offshore or onshore federal tracts, which can be drilled for oil or natural gas. Companies with the highest bids generally lease the tracts for 10 years.
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