WASHINGTON (AP) -- President Bush's plan to drill for oil in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge is all but dead for now, Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle said Sunday.
Debate on the administration's energy plan is expected to begin in the Senate this week.
An amendment that would expand domestic production of fuel, principally by drilling in ANWR, is opposed by most Senate Democrats and about a half-dozen GOP senators. Republicans have acknowledged they lack the 60 votes needed to break an expected Democratic filibuster on the bill.
Daschle, D-S.D., said on NBC's ''Meet the Press'' that opponents still had not rounded up the required votes.
When asked, ''So it's dead?'' Daschle said, ''Well, at least right now it is, correct.''
Daschle and others have said raising federal mileage standards for automobiles would save more oil than drilling in the refuge could produce and send down the trans-Alaska oil pipeline.
''We can do so much more -- 15 times more -- by passing the fuel-efficiency standards,'' he said. ''That's the way to deal with energy policy, not going into the most pristine part'' of the refuge, he said.
Appearing with Daschle, Senate Minority Leader Trent Lott, R-Miss., said, ''I'm willing to try to do things on the conservation side and on alternative fuels -- which I really don't think would work or will produce very much -- but I also think you need to have the production side.''
Environmentalists long have argued that development of the oil in refuge would jeopardize wildlife that use the area.
The GOP-led House has passed a bill that would open up the plain, an area of 1.5 million acres where the oil and gas are believed to be located.
Lott said the refuge, ''while it might be pristine, is pretty barren.''
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