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'Two oil men' to blame for high gas prices, Pelosi says

  • Story Highlights
  • NEW: Speaker Pelosi blasts President Bush, GOP for blocking legislation
  • NEW: Pelosi says she does not plan to schedule a vote to lift ban on offshore drilling
  • Groups of Democrats, Republicans working on compromise
  • Deal would include new domestic drilling, promotion of alternative energy sources
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WASHINGTON (CNN) -- House Speaker Nancy Pelosi Thursday blamed the "two oil men in the White House," President Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney, and their Republican allies in Congress for gas prices exceeding $4 a gallon.

Rep. John Peterson, R-Pennsylvania, has formed the House bipartisan "energy working group."

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi says she does not plan to permit a vote to lift a ban on offshore oil drilling.

Pelosi, a California Democrat, said multiple initiatives intended to lower high energy costs have passed the Democratically controlled House only to "run into a brick wall" in the Senate because they did not receive the 60 votes needed to overcome Republican filibusters.

"The price of oil is... is attributed to two oil men in the White House and their protectors in the United States Senate," Pelosi said in an interview with CNN's Wolf Blitzer.

Pelosi said she would continue to oppose two policy changes that President Bush and congressional Republicans have been advocating: lifting the ban on offshore drilling and opening the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge for oil exploration. Video Watch Pelosi argue against more drilling »

Pelosi said she had no plans to allow votes to lift a ban on offshore drilling despite widespread support for the move. A recent CNN poll conducted by the Opinion Research Corp. found that 72 percent of those polled supported more offshore drilling. About a quarter -- 27 percent -- backed Pelosi's position. The poll, conducted June 26-29, has a margin of error of plus-or-minus 3 percentage points.

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Pelosi said there are plenty of opportunities that oil companies should explore before environmentally sensitive areas such as ANWR are open to drilling, pointing to the 33 million acres that have already been approved for offshore drilling and the 68 million acres of federal land in the lower 48 states that is open to exploration.

"The impression that the White House has given you is that if you could drill in these protected areas, the price of gasoline will come down," Pelosi said. "Even the president in his press conference the other day acknowledged that that was not the case." Video Watch Pelosi call Bush a 'total failure' »

Pelosi's renewed opposition to more drilling comes as two bipartisan groups -- one in the House, the other in the Senate -- are trying to rekindle stalled energy legislation by forging a compromise to expand domestic oil and gas drilling.

The compromise would include new domestic drilling to satisfy Republicans and promote conservation and alternative energy sources to satisfy Democrats, lawmakers said.

Despite Pelosi and the Democratic leadership opposing efforts to repeal a 1981 law barring most offshore drilling, the Senate group said its plan probably would allow offshore drilling in new areas of the outer continental shelf. Video Watch Pelosi say she is 'disappointed' in Congress »

Sen. Ben Nelson, D-Nebraska, is bucking his party's leadership by supporting new drilling. He said he and the other senators advocating the deal are "people who are all seriously concerned about the issue who want to find solutions that are most likely to involve compromise."

Another group member, Sen. Johnny Isakson, R-Georgia, said, "Somebody around here's got to do it. We think the Senate can vote in the majority for energy proposals that will reduce our dependence on foreign oil and reduce the pressure on gas prices."

The Senate group met behind closed doors Wednesday at the Capitol, seeking to forge legislation that could be introduced after the August recess. Talks were to continue later in the week, according to one senator who attended the meeting.

In the House, the bipartisan "energy working group" -- formed by Reps. John Peterson, R-Pennsylvania, and Neil Abercrombie, D-Hawaii -- includes 23 members, roughly split between the two parties.

Peterson said energy legislation should be the priority for Congress and said he hopes the group can yield a comprehensive plan next week.

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"Leaders are going to have a hard time refusing to address this issue. This is the issue of the year. This is the issue of the decade," Peterson said.

Another member of the group, Republican Sen. Saxby Chambliss of Georgia, said that "everything is on the table" except drilling in Alaska's ANWR, which he described as a "lightning rod."

CNN's Ted Barrett and Deirdre Walsh contributed to this report.

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