When the 107th Congress convened almost a year ago, the possibility that Congress might approve opening a portion of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to oil drilling was looking pretty good.
At that time, Republicans were in control of the Senate, Sen. Frank Murkowski was chairman of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Commission, and newly elected President Bush had made ANWR a central part of his national energy policy proposal.
What a difference a year has made.
In May, Vermont Sen. Jim Jeffords announced he would be leaving the Republican Party, effectively throwing control of the Senate into the hands of the Democrats.
However, ANWR's chances were looking up after Rep. Don Young's bill overwhelmingly passed the House of Representatives in August. Still, as the weeks went on, it began to look like the momentum in the Senate was stalling, and the congressional session ended with no resolution on the issue.
Young's bill still will be alive when the second session of this Congress convenes later this month, and Murkowski said he expects to receive more help from the White House in order to persuade key senators.
Although Congress continued its work far longer than is usual, many issues -- including energy policy -- were not resolved. When Congress returns, it no doubt will continue debating the issue of improving national security -- a major part of which must be reducing our dependence on foreign oil. And opening a portion of ANWR should be a component of that.
Clearly, ANWR is not the key to all of our nation's energy and security issues, but it should be a part of the solution.
Some say the likelihood of passing legislation opening ANWR now is drastically reduced -- if it was going to happen during this Congress, it would have happened in 2001. And the election-year politics that are sure to be part of 2002 may only muddy the waters more.
Even though it will be an uphill fight, our representatives in Washington should continue their efforts to make ANWR part of a national energy policy.
-- Fairbanks Daily News-Miner
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