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The BBC's Rob Watson
"The idea has been roundly condemned by environmentalists and in congress"
 real 28k

Tuesday, 3 July, 2001, 02:10 GMT 03:10 UK
Bush plans new offshore oil fields
LB 200 pipelay barge off Mobila, Alabama
The plan would extend drilling in the Gulf of Mexico
By Rob Watson in Washington

The Bush administration has unveiled plans to extend drilling for oil and gas in the Gulf of Mexico as part of its controversial energy policy.

The plan has been strongly opposed by environmentalists in the coastal states, such as Florida.

President George W Bush has long argued that the US needs to drill for more oil and gas, including in its coastal waters, to make it less dependent on foreign energy suppliers.

In line with that policy the administration has announced that it wants to lease some 600,000 hectares of seabed in the Gulf of Mexico for oil and gas exploration.

Announcing the decision, President Bush's Interior Secretary, Gail Norton, said the area could produce enough oil to power a million families' cars for six years.

The administration has stressing the areas is at least 160km (90 miles) from the shorelines of Mississippi, Alabama, and Louisiana, and the famous tourist packed sandy beaches of Florida.

It also says every effort will be made to keep any exploration environmentally friendly.

Condemned

But so far the idea has not been popular.

It has been roundly condemned by environmentalists, and in congress, which last month voted to block any attempts to lease coastal waters for drilling.

Public opinion polls also show President Bush's energy policy is not going down well with the American people, who perceive the administration as being more worried about its friends in the oil industry, than it is about protecting the environment.

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