Offshore oil drilling will produce jobs and help the economy, some of the nation’s top oil company executives have been telling Congress in an effort to see more offshore sites opened to exploration and development.

Reporting for Associated Press, H. Josef Hebert, in the D.C. bureau, wrote that executives warned lawmakers not to be “lulled into complacency” by current oil prices, which have fallen significantly from summer 2008, but which recently have turned upwards somewhat. They urged Congress to grant access to oil and natural gas off the Atlantic and Pacific coasts.

The contentious issue, which gained traction during the presidential campaign, will continue to be a thorny one. Last October, Congress ended a ban on drilling across most federal offshore waters from New England to the Pacific Northwest.

New leases are not a foregone conclusion, however. Interior Secretary Ken Salazar shelved an ambitious offshore drilling plan that had been left over from the Bush administration, Hebert wrote: “He said he wanted to review the entire issue of expanded offshore drilling.”

Even once new leases are granted, it would take years to develop new drilling operations and extract oil for the market, energy experts say.

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