WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, today joined President Bush in calling for Congress to open part of the Arctic coastal plain to oil and gas production to help drive down record gasoline and diesel prices.

In a speech prepared for delivery on the Senate floor, Murkowski noted that the average price for gasoline nationwide has passed $4.08 a gallon and that Americans are now paying $1.6 billion a day for energy.

“American consumers don’t need me to tell them about the sky-high cost of fuel and how it is truly affecting the typical family’s budget,” Murkowski said in prepared remarks. “The best way to drive down fuel prices is for America to produce more energy at home, giving the jobs to Americans and keeping the royalties and tax revenues in U.S. hands.”

Bush, in a Rose Garden statement, said that opening just 2,000 acres of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to development could produce the equivalent of two decades of oil imported from Saudi Arabia.

Murkowski, a member of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, said it is important for America to take a variety of actions to produce more energy domestically as a means to increase global fuel supplies and thus bring down record prices.

Speaking in response to a Democratic energy plan that calls for passage of a windfall profits tax on the energy industry, Murkowski said a better way to reduce prices would be to open part of ANWR to development and bring the 10 billion to 16 billion barrels of oil likely in the area to market; open up more areas offshore on the Outer Continental Shelf to oil development; and lift moratoria and allow oil shale development in the American West, since America controls 1.8 trillion barrels oil shale – six times the known oil reserves of Saudi Arabia.

Murkowski said that America has enough undiscovered resources to affect world supplies and drive down prices. She noted that America has an even chance of producing 85.8 billion barrels of undiscovered oil and 419.8 trillion cubic feet of natural gas, 10 times the amount of proven reserves of oil and 15 times the proven reserves of gas, according to the Minerals Management Service.

“Can we be energy independent immediately? No we can’t. But can we help ourselves, produce enough oil to help meet global demand and thus lower prices, and keep our families from going broke? Yes, we can,” said Murkowski, in urging passage of a balanced energy policy.

Murkowski believes that America needs to have a three-pronged energy policy that includes domestic production, including ANWR development; increased conservation and an emphasis on alternative and renewable fuels.