Speaking at a briefing on Tuesday, the President said authorities were still in the process of assessing what damage the storm had done to existing vital energy infrastructure in the Gulf Coast region.

It is believed that the damage to offshore oil rigs will not be as bad as that seen in the wake of Hurricane Katrina.

The rigs, which provide about a quarter of domestic oil in the US, had shut down before the storm hit.

But the President said the hurricane should not discourage the US from using offshore resources to reduce its dependence on foreign oil.

He urged Congress to allow the US to explore “environmentally friendly ways” to find more oil and gas supplies around American shores.

“They’ve got to understand that we need more domestic energy, not less and one place to find it is offshore America – lands that have been taken off the books, so to speak, by Congressional law,” he said.

He added: “This storm should not cause the members of Congress to say, well, we don’t need to address our energy independence. It ought to cause the Congress to step up their need to address our dependence on foreign oil.”

His comments were made following the arrival of Hurricane Gustav on US shores.

The storm left nearly 90 dead as it made its way across the Caribbean heading for Louisiana, prompting a mass evacuation of New Orleans, which is still recovering from the devastation caused by Hurricane Katrina three years ago.

But Gustav had weakened to a tropical storm by the time it hit the US on Monday, and the worst of the storm bypassed New Orleans altogether.

According to reports from Louisiana on Tuesday, eight people had been killed by the storm, which is still producing winds of up to 60 miles per hour and torrential rain.

Kate Martin

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