President Bush should not be forced to ask for favors from Saudi Arabia to help lower near-record prices at American gas pumps, a senior Democratic congressman said on Saturday.

U.S. Rep. Ed Markey of Massachusetts blamed the Bush administration’s “failed energy policy” for the high cost of oil and called for a plan that focused on renewable technologies, energy efficiency and conservation rather than an expansion of oil and gas drilling in the United States.

Bush, who hosts Saudi Crown Prince Abdullah at his ranch in Crawford, Texas, on Monday, acknowledged this week that the energy bill he has asked Congress to pass by August would not immediately reduce gas prices.

“The president is right to meet with this powerful man, but it is wrong that the leader of the United States must ask favors from a foreign prince,” Markey said in the Democratic radio address.

Bush is feeling the political heat from a big rise in gasoline prices as public opinion polls show consumers are increasingly concerned. Last week, the average retail gasoline price hit a record $2.28 per gallon.

Saudi Arabia is the biggest member of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries and the world’s top oil exporter.

Bush has said he would ask the crown prince if the Saudis can step up the flow of oil and also seek a clear answer about the size of the country’s spare oil production capacity.

In early April, U.S. crude oil futures hit a record-high of $58.28 per barrel. On Friday, crude futures closed above $55 a barrel.