Representatives of industry and poverty programs say they support expanding natural gas drilling offshore from Florida and other coastal states, including Alabama.
The representatives testified during a hearing in D-C on a bill that would allow drilling only 20 miles from Florida's beaches. They said the poor will suffer and workers will lose jobs if natural gas prices can't be reduced.
The Energy and Minerals Subcommittee of the House Resources Committee is considering the bill that sponsors say will help control fuel prices by increasing supplies.
Drilling opponents maintain that opening the eastern Gulf of Mexico to gas production would do little or nothing to lower prices. They say that would threaten to pollute beaches vital to Florida's tourism economy and military training and testing ranges.
The subcommittee hasn't scheduled a vote on the bill.
Natural gas is used as a raw material to make nitrogen fertilizer.