From NBC's John Yang and Mark Murray
President Bush goes to the Rose Garden early this afternoon to lift the executive order his father put in place in 1990 banning offshore oil exploration. The act has no immediate practical effect because a legislative ban remains in effect.
Politically, though, the White House and Republicans are trying to build political pressure on Democrats, saying they are blocking the path to lower gas prices. Bush called on Congress last month to lift the ban. They see this as a potential opening against Barack Obama and congressional Democrats. "They haven't even held a single hearing," White House Press Secretary Dana Perino said at her off-camera, on-the-record gaggle. "So we are going to move forward and hopefully that will spur action by the Congress."
Energy analysts say that even if the entire ban was lifted immediately, oil from offshore drilling wouldn't be on the market for ten years or so.
Indeed, the Obama campaign just released a statement making that very point. "If offshore drilling would provide short-term relief at the pump or a long-term strategy for energy independence, it would be worthy of our consideration, regardless of the risks," Obama spokesman Bill Burton said. "But most experts, even within the Bush Administration, concede it would do neither. It would merely prolong the failed energy policies we have seen from Washington for 30 years."
"Sen. Obama believes Americans need real short-term relief, which is why he has proposed a second round of stimulus with energy rebates for working families. And over the long-term, Sen. Obama understands that our national security and the survival of the planet demand a real strategy to break our dependence on foreign oil by developing clean, new sources of energy and by vastly improving the energy efficiency of our cars, trucks and our economy. He is ready to lead such a transformation."