US upping oil production

US PRESIDENT Barack Obama is directing his government to ramp up US oil production by extending existing leases in the Gulf of Mexico and off Alaska's coast.

Obama said yesterday that the measures "make good sense" and will help reduce US consumption of imported oil in the long term. But he acknowledged that they won't help to immediately bring down high petrol prices.

The President said in his weekly radio and internet address that he would extend all Gulf leases that were affected by a temporary moratorium on drilling imposed after last year's BP oil spill. That would give companies additional time to begin drilling.

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The US government had been granting extensions case by case, but senior officials said the interior department would institute a blanket one-year extension. New safety requirements have delayed drilling in Alaska, so Obama said he would extend lease terms there for a year as well. An oil lease typically runs for ten years.