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Thursday, November 03, 2005

ANWR Update - There May Still Be Hope

The New York Times reported today that push for drilling in the Alaskan National Wildlife Refuge may be a threat to the passage of the omnibus Budget Reconciliation Bill. According to the Times, the chairman of the House Budget Committee, Representative Jim Nussle (R-Iowa), said on Wednesday that while he supported the proposal, the Republican plan to allow oil drilling in ANWR could imperil the passage of the sweeping five-year federal budget.

The Times reports, "when asked if he was concerned that the proposal could kill the whole deficit-reduction bill, Mr. Nussle said: 'I am concerned. I am concerned about that.'"

Conservation groups have begun waging a vigerous campaign to presuade moderate Republicans to vote no on the entire budget reconciliation bill if it contains the drilling provision. Several groups have also begun running print and television ads in several states, including Minnesota, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin, again according to the Times. Leaders from these groups are promising to work towards defeating lawmakers who break with them and vote yes on the budget.

It seems that the ANWR provision has emerged as the most explosive issue in the sweaping budget bill and could threaten its passage.

According to the Times, Democrats have said the Alaska drilling proposal did not belong in an omnibus budget bill. "This is too important a question to slide into the budget bill," said Senator Maria Cantwell of Washington.

Senator Richard Durbin, the Democratic Whip, has also spoken out against the provision (indeed echoing some of the sentiments I have expressed in previous posts [two links]).

The Times reports that he has said the coastal section of the refuge would yield only "a small amount oil." If drilling is allowed, Mr. Durbin said, much of the oil extracted from the refuge will be sold to other countries. "We are debating drilling in the ANWR so oil companies can export oil to China, Japan and other parts of the world," he said. "We are going to defile this wildlife refuge to export oil that won't even benefit the United States. Drilling for oil in the Arctic so we can export it to China is no answer to America's energy security challenge."

Well, perhaps there is still hope. It's good to see opposition from Democrats and the mobilization of the conservation groups on this issue. I was affraid it would slide through hidden in the huge budget bill unnoticed. This again points to the importance of contacting your representatives and urging them to fight this bill as long as it contains the ANWR provision.

Again, I would like to reiterate, while there isn't a small quantity of oil in ANWR - ~10 billion barrels - it does
not amount to a sizable or strategicly significant portion of oil. At its peak, it will amount to less than 4% of daily demand and that is assuming all the oil makes it to the United States. As Senator Durbin recognizes and I have repeatedly pointed out, there is no guarantee that this oil will be sold to US consumers and in all likelihood, the bulk of it will be sold to Russia, China, and/or Japan. As soon as we lease this valuable resource to the likes of Exxon, it is no longer ours and the oil companies who pump it out can sell it to whomever they please. And what do we get out of it? A pitiable amount of lease money and royalties compared to the hundreds of billions of dollars of profits that the oil barons will enjoy.

I'm going to ask you again: Is this really worth the defilement of a pristine wilderness, a wilderness expressly put set aside to save it from the bite of the drill that the rest of Alaska's North Slope has already felt? Will we sacrifice ANWR and the valuable resources it contains for the sake of a couple billion dollars - the price of a single war machine or bomb or road project, an all together tiny amoung when compared to the overall national budget let alone the national debt - all so Exxon and their friends can pile more money on top of their already record profits? How is this in our best interests to allow others to profit while we lose forever one of the last pristine and untouched wildernesses in our lands?

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