ASPEN, Colo. – Republican presidential contender Sen. John McCain said on Thursday the recent sharp fall in the price of oil had been helped by the end of the U.S. federal offshore drilling moratorium.

“I think several factors have contributed to the recent drop in the price of a barrel of oil. I think the practice of conservation and the reduction in our demand has probably been a major factor,” he told the Aspen Institute.

“I also don’t think it was entirely accidental that the day that the president announced lifting the federal moratorium on offshore drilling, the price of a barrel of oil dropped.”

Despite the decline in oil prices from record highs above $140 a barrel in July to around $115, gasoline prices remain a crucial issue in the election campaign, pinching Americans as they cope with falling house prices.

McCain’s call for offshore drilling to boost domestic oil supplies, which he says will provide a bridge to a time when new, greener, energy technology is in place, has been slammed by critics who say it would be a disaster for the environment and not make any difference to oil prices.