As lawmakers and presidential candidates debate whether to open new areas to offshore oil drilling, energy companies in late August bid $487.3 million to win rights to drill 319 tracts covering 1.8 million acres below the Gulf of Mexico.

Most of the leases came with 10-year terms, and they are unlikely to influence the price of oil now, the Associated Press reported. The Bush administration used the occasion to push for more domestic energy production, beyond federal lands where leases are now available.

“Much more needs to be done to create the access necessary for the oil industry to do what it does best and develop this country’s resources to secure our energy security,” said Interior Secretary Dirk Kempthorne.

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