Rep. Michele Bachmann, fresh from a congressional energy tour in Colorado and Alaska, likened America's abundant domestic energy resources Tuesday to a locked pantry filled with food.

"It's almost like you have a kitchen full of little children that are hungry and want to eat," said the Minnesota Republican, a mother of five and past foster mother of 23. "The pantry has a lock on the door, but the pantry is filled with food."

Bachmann conjured up the image to decry Congress' refusal so far to open up environmentally sensitive regions in Alaska and the Outer Continental Shelf to oil and gas exploration.

Among the stops on the energy tour, led by House GOP Leader John Boehner of Ohio, was the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR), which Bachmann and some others want to open up to oil drilling.

Bachmann, in a conference call with Minnesota reporters, suggested that ANWR's oil deposits could be extracted with minimal environmental degradation; environmentalists disagree.

She also noted that the area's tundra is dark three months out of the year and covered with snow and ice for nine months.

In addition to ANWR and the Outer Continental Shelf, she said states such as Colorado, Utah, Wyoming, Montana and North Dakota hold the promise of being rich sources of oil.

Bachmann has made headlines recently by suggesting that more robust energy development could bring back the days of $2-a-gallon gas.

She said renewable fuels and conservation measures should also be part of the nation's energy picture.

But Bachmann, like many of her GOP colleagues, favors solutions such as tax credits to induce U.S. automakers to make more fuel-efficient vehicles.

She opposed energy legislation last year that mandated an average fuel-efficiency standard of 35 miles per gallon by 2020.

She has also been an outspoken opponent of government mandates on the use of more energy-efficient fluorescent light bulbs.

Asked by a reporter whether the "children" in her analogy might be overweight or overfed, she replied that she doesn't think that constituents suffering under skyrocketing gas prices see themselves that way.

Bachmann's DFL challenger in Minnesota's Sixth Congressional District, former state Transportation Commissioner Elwyn Tinklenberg, said he supports more domestic energy production, though not in ANWR.

But like many Democrats in Congress, Tinklenberg argues that more immediate relief from high gas prices will be wrought from conserving fuel, not drilling more, which some experts say would not move prices much for decades.

"[Bachmann] presents the false hope that we can drill our way out, against all the evidence to the contrary," Tinklenberg said.

As for Bachmann's promise of $2 gas, he said, "that undermines the seriousness of the problems consumers are facing."

Kevin Diaz • 202-408-2753