Obama Administration Seeks Interest in Oil Drilling Near

March 24 (Bloomberg) -- The Obama administration is seeking input from the oil and gas industry to explore drilling off the coast of south-central Alaska, according to a statement from the U.S. Department of Interior.

The administration said its “request for interest” is a step in the planning for a potential oil and natural gas lease sale in the Cook Inlet. The rising cost of gasoline threatens to slow the U.S. recovery and is emerging as an issue in the 2012 presidential campaign. President Barack Obama spent two days last week promoting development of alternative energy sources, a favorite of environmentalists, while also echoing Republican calls to expand the use and production of fossil fuels.

The Interior Department said its request for interest “does not indicate a decision to lease in the Cook Inlet planning area.”

The effort is “part of our commitment to increasing safe and responsible oil and gas production as part of an all-of-the-above energy strategy for America,” Interior Secretary Ken Salazar said in a statement given to reporters traveling on Air Force One as President Barack Obama flew to South Korea to attend the Nuclear Security Summit.

The Bureau of Ocean Energy Management won’t make a decision about any potential lease sale before completing the 2012-2017 leasing program and determining whether there is adequate interest in holding the sale and conducting further environmental reviews.

To contact the reporter on this story: Holly Rosenkrantz in Washington at hrosenkrantz@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Steven Komarow at skomarow1@bloomberg.net