CRAWFORD, Texas (AP) – President Bush on Saturday blamed the Democratic-led Congress for the high cost of gasoline and renewed his call for expanded offshore drilling to increase U.S. oil supplies.

“To reduce pressure on prices, we need to increase the supply of oil, especially oil produced here at home,” Bush said in his weekly radio address.

Congress left for the August recess without a solution to fuel prices. In a bid to force a vote on offshore drilling, Republicans blocked Democratic proposals to use the nation’s petroleum reserve, curb oil speculation and require oil companies to drill on already leased federal lands.

The president, who is vacationing at his Texas ranch, said Americans support expanded exploration of oil in areas that include the Outer Continental Shelf. The shelf is the shallow, sloping land that stretches for miles undersea between the coastline and the deep ocean.

New oil drilling is only allowed now in federal waters in the western Gulf of Mexico and off Alaska.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., signaled last week the Democrats’ position could be shifting. With energy legislation to be introduced after Congress returns, lawmakers will be able to “consider opening portions of the Outer Continental Shelf for drilling, with appropriate safeguards, and without taxpayer subsidies to Big Oil,” she said.

But Bush said the Democrats are pushing a plan that would reduce domestic production and drain the country’s emergency oil supply.

“Democratic leaders know that these counterproductive proposals will not become law,” Bush said. “They need to stop standing in the way of expanding domestic production and take meaningful steps now to address the pain caused by high energy prices.”

Bush said offshore drilling can be done in an “environmentally responsible” way. Experts believe production from below the ocean can produce nearly 10 years’ worth of America’s current annual oil output, he said.

“When Congress returns they should remove this restriction so we can get these vast oil resources from the ocean floor to your gas tank,” Bush said.

The president also said Congress should lift a ban that blocks access to oil shale on federal lands. Oil shale, a sedimentary rock, can be mined and processed to produce oil.

And lawmakers should extend tax credits to encourage the development of alternative sources of energy such as wind and solar, Bush said.

“This Congress has been one of the most unproductive on record. They’ve failed to address the challenge of high gas prices,” the president said. “They need to send me a bill next month that I can sign so we can bring relief to drivers, small business owners, farmers and ranchers and every American affected by high prices at the pump.”

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AP-ES-08-23-08 1020EDT

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