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WASHINGTON — The US Senate on Wednesday rejected a Republican-sponsored measure that would sharply increase drilling rights for oil and gas in the United States in a bid to bring down fuel prices.
The Democratic majority defeated the proposal, which got only 42 votes in the 100-member body.
Although President Barack Obama and his Democratic allies have called for increased drilling, the Republican opposition has called for a more aggressive approach.
The latest proposal defeated in the senate would have made it easier to get permits for drilling off the east and west coasts of the United States.
The vote came roughly a year after the huge oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico at BP-operated well that took months to cap.
In March 2010, Obama announced a plan to expand drilling along areas of the Atlantic coastline, the eastern Gulf of Mexico and the north coast of Alaska.
But he reversed the decision later in the year, amid the environmental fallout of the BP Deepwater Horizon oil disaster in the Gulf, and banned drilling in some areas until beyond 2017.
His most recent initiative would extend drilling leases in some areas of the Gulf impacted by last year’s temporary moratorium and establish a new interagency working group to ensure Arctic leases meet environmental standards.
Obama has previously vowed to cut US oil imports, which often come from volatile areas of the world, by a third in just over a decade, and has also invested heavily in developing alternative energy sources.
But Republicans have charged that his reluctance to open US energy fields to full exploitation undermines his policy.
The president has also railed against oil industry giants for making huge profits while Americans suffer from rising pump prices, and has called for $4 billion in government subsidies to the industry to be revoked.