Search for More Oil Creates Scramble in Washington


"Government concern about rising oil prices is intensifying conflicts over how to find new energy supplies."


The Obama administration plans to announce Tuesday that it will buy more energy-efficient vehicles for U.S. government fleets in a bid to reduce its dependence on foreign oil.

The White House press office notified reporters Monday of the planned announcement during a week when government concern about rising oil prices is intensifying conflicts over how to find new energy supplies.

In Congress, Republicans and Democrats are trying again to reach an agreement on a way to increase offshore oil drilling while avoiding risks of another large spill, like the one last year that devastated the Gulf of Mexico.

A Republican bill intended to speed up leasing of drilling rights to oil companies was defeated last week by Democrats. They complained about the lack of safety controls.

"This bill isn't our last on this crisis," said Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnel.

The House passed three bills this month that limit legal challenges against offshore oil permits based on environmental reviews of drilling sites.

The Senate could take further action on the bills this week.

In a related controversy, the Cuban government plans to drill for oil off its coast, near Havana, beginning early next year.

The United States could become one of Cuba's customers for oil exports, but only if the U.S. government sets aside years of political antagonism and growing skepticism about the safety of the project, according to some Democrats in Congress.

Republicans are expressing concern the Cuban oil rig could leak into U.S. fishing waters.

Obama also ordered the Interior Department to speed up seismic testing required for drilling to begin along the mid-Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico coasts.

Nevertheless, Republicans say he is responding too slowly to gasoline prices that continue rising over $4 a gallon.

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