Companies bid millions to tap Western Gulf

WASHINGTON (AP) -- Energy companies have placed $487.3 million in winning bids for the right to drill in the western Gulf of Mexico, knowing that they may get a chance later to also explore in other areas that have been off limits for decades.

The lease sale Wednesday was the first to take place since President Bush last month lifted an executive ban on oil drilling off the Atlantic and Pacific coasts. Since then, politicians in both parties have signaled that they are willing to expand offshore exploration.

Interior Secretary Dirk Kempthorne called Wednesday's sale a step toward more domestic oil production. He acknowledged, however, that some of the purchased leases may not end up producing oil.

Offshore wells now provide 27 percent of the nation's domestic oil.

(Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)


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