Gov.-elect Bob McDonnell wants the federal government to move forward with offshore energy exploration off of Virginia's coast.

In a letter to Interior Secretary Ken Salazar, McDonnell argued against any further delay in an offshore lease sale scheduled for 2011. The Republican contends the exploration for oil and natural gas resources in an environmentally responsible manner is important in this down economy.

In the letter released Tuesday, McDonnell points to a 2005 Old Dominion University forecast that offshore natural gas production alone would create more than 2,500 jobs over a 10-year period, and generate $7.8 billion in capital investments.

The study also estimated the lease area contains up to 500 million barrels of oil.