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House votes for more energy development in bid to insure against higher gas prices

In this Wednesday, June 4, 2014 photo, Marty Mascio of Pembroke Pines, Fla., selects a grade of gasoline as he fills up his car at a Chevron station in Pembroke Pines. Violence in Iraq is pushing U.S. gasoline prices higher during a time of year they usually decline. The national average price of $3.67 per gallon is the highest price for this time of year since 2008, the year gasoline hit its all-time high. (AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee) AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee

The House passed legislation on Thursday that's aimed at increasing development of U.S.-based energy resources, and insulating the U.S. against the possibility of rising gasoline prices in the wake of new unrest in Iraq.

Members passed the Lowering Gasoline Prices to Fuel an America that Works Act in a 299-185 vote that saw 10 Democrats join the majority.

The House voted Thursday to boost U.S. energy production in a bid to insure against the possibility of higher gasoline prices. (AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee)

Under the bill, the administration would expand U.S. offshore oil production efforts, and require the Secretary of the Interior to conduct oil and natural gas lease sales in order to boost domestic production. House Natural Resources Committee Chairman Doc Hastings (R-Wash.) said these efforts would help lower historically high gasoline prices, which could increase further depending on how the situation in Iraq unfolds.

"The current turmoil in Iraq has already caused the price of gasoline to increase, and it serves as an important reminder of why we need to increase production here at home," Hastings said. "The best way to protect ourselves from price spikes caused by international conflicts is to increase the production of American energy resources."

Republicans have argued for years that the Obama administration has closed down potential sources of energy on land operated by the federal government. Hastings said the increase in U.S. energy production has only happened on privately-held land, and said the government needs to expand access to federal land.

According to Energy Trends Insider, the average cost of a gallon of gas was $2.35 in 2009. Today, that price has increased to about $3.70, an increase of more than 50 percent.

Most Democrats opposed the bill, and said it would too quickly call for energy development at the risk of environmental degradation. Rep. Peter DeFazio (D-Ore.) said the small "blip" in offshore oil production happened a few years ago, when offshore work was slowed in response to the Deepwater Horizon oil spill.

"[T]here was a temporary suspension of drilling and new permits," he said Wednesday. "That is history now, but that does make your average look lower over time."

Like so many House-passed bills dealing with energy development, Senate Democrats have given no indication they will consider the bill, and it is likely not to move in the upper chamber.

After the vote, House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) argued that President Barack Obama has no good reason for opposing the bill.

"There are plenty of critical reasons we need more American energy production, including the nearly 10 million Americans still asking, 'where are the jobs?' " Boehner said. "What reason – outside of his political interests – does the president have for standing in the way?"

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