WASHINGTON, June 17 (UPI) -- The U.S. Department of Interior said it was taking "concrete steps" to increase domestic energy production in Alaska and the Gulf of Mexico.
U.S. Interior Secretary Ken Salazar said the department would have lease sales every year starting in 2011 in the National Petroleum Reserve in Alaska. The Interior Department's Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation and Enforcement, meanwhile, would extend certain one-year oil and gas leases in the Gulf of Mexico.
"As part of President (Barack) Obama's comprehensive energy strategy, (the Interior Department) is moving ahead with these concrete steps to continue to expand responsible and safe domestic oil production," Salazar said in a statement.
Republican lawmakers have pressed the Obama administration to open more areas for domestic energy production as a way to increase jobs, boost the economy and decrease the dependence on foreign energy. Critics note a heightened risk for environmental damage, especially after last year's oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.
The U.S. Geological Survey estimates the Alaska reserve holds as much as 896 million barrels of oil and 53 trillion cubic feet of natural gas. The BOEMRE put the reserve estimate for the Gulf of Mexico at 19.8 billion barrels of oil and nearly 181.8 trillion cubic feet of gas.