The Senate endorsed a measure calling for an inventory of all offshore oil and gas reserves, despite objections from Florida and other coastal-state lawmakers who argued that it could lead to the development of areas now off-limits.
Supporters of taking the inventory, which is included in an energy bill being debated by the Senate, said it is needed to get a picture of the country's oil and gas resources.
An amendment to remove the inventory provision from the energy legislation was rejected by 52 to 44. Opponents of the inventory, which would be done with seismic equipment, vowed to continue fighting it. The House energy legislation approved in April does not include a similar measure.
"When you listen to how those in favor of conducting an inventory discuss the issue, it is clear that these individuals are using an inventory as a precursor to drill," Sen. Mel Martinez (R-Fla.), a sponsor of the amendment to remove the provision, said in a statement. "An inventory is simply unacceptable to Floridians."
But supporters said inventory information is needed to guide policy decisions. Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-La.) said that an inventory would allow the country to "make good decisions about whether to use those resources, when to use those resources or decide to never even tap into those resources."
For years, new drilling for oil and gas has been banned off most of the U.S. coastline. Drilling is allowed in the central and western parts of the Gulf of Mexico and off the coast of Alaska.
As oil prices rise and as U.S. production declines, some lawmakers have been pushing to allow states to opt out of the ban and allow drilling off their coasts.
As part of the debate over the energy legislation, the Senate considered two amendments dealing with global warming.
Lawmakers approved a measure, introduced by Sen. Chuck Hagel (R-Neb.), that offers various incentives for companies to develop technologies aimed at reducing greenhouse gas emissions. It imposes no limits on emissions.
The Senate also began debating an amendment by Sens. John McCain (R-Ariz.) and Joseph I. Lieberman (D-Conn.) that would impose mandatory limits on emissions.
A vote on that measure, which is opposed by the Bush administration, is expected today.