Gasoline prices in most U.S. markets have topped $4 per gallon in part because of oil supply concerns stemming from the conflict in Libya, one of Africa's top oil producers.
Michael Bromwich, director of the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation and Enforcement, noted that exploration off the U.S. coast wouldn't do much to ease gasoline prices.
"Even if we permitted the hell out of everything tomorrow -- every pending permit, some permits that haven't even been filed yet -- it would not have a material effect on gas prices," he was quoted by the Platts news service as saying. "That's the simple, clear reality."
Washington lifted a moratorium on deep-water drilling in October after halting the practice following the April 2010 oil disaster in the Gulf of Mexico. Bromwich, whose agency is in charge of issuing new drilling permits, said gasoline prices are a reflection of conditions on the global market.
"You can't drill your way to lower oil prices," he said. "It's a world market. We have a very limited impact on that."
U.S. President Barack Obama last week ordered the Justice Department to investigate speculation in the energy market as a possible cause for soaring energy prices.