FAIRBANKS (AP) -- In his push for oil drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, Sen. Frank Murkowski points to the Eielson Air Force Base personnel who returned from patrolling Iraq.
The ANWR issue is about national security, Murkowski and other pro-drilling boosters have repeatedly said in their efforts to counter the wilderness-promoting efforts of environmentalists.
Murkowski and others repeatedly cite the militant anti-Americanism of Iraqi President Saddam Hussein, whose oil Murkowski says now supplies one out of every 19 gallons of gasoline in the United States.
From December 2001 through this past weekend, Eielson's airmen helped to contain Saddam's military movements in Iraq. Such work has occasionally put American pilots in the line of Iraqi anti-aircraft fire during the past decade. The U.S. pilots have responded with their own weaponry.
The U.S. jets are almost certainly fueled, in part, by petroleum from the very country they sometimes bomb. Worse, Murkowski said, the U.S. government's fuel purchases are probably providing some of the money Saddam Hussein uses to buy and build his weapons, despite a massive United Nations program that tries to direct Iraq's oil profits to food purchases.
The amount the U.S. gets from Saddam, Murkowski notes, roughly parallels the amount ANWR could produce -- by some estimates.
Critics groan when the senator makes this argument.
''It's not at all clear that if we open the Arctic refuge to drilling that it would replace oil from Iraq,'' Jim Waldman with The Wilderness Society told the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner. ''That decision is not a decision made by national policy. It's a decision made by the oil companies. The oil companies choose to purchase oil from Iraq and import it to the U.S. I can only assume it's cheaper or a certain quality or characteristic that helps them run their business.''
Drilling in ANWR would probably displace oil from numerous sources, not just Iraq, Murkowski acknowledged last week. So in addition to opening ANWR, the U.S. must prohibit imports from Iraq, he said.
On Friday, Murkowski introduced legislation to do just that. This is his second try. He first proposed last summer to add an Iraqi oil ban to a bill extending existing bans on Iranian and Libyan oil imports. He quickly withdrew last summer's amendment, though, saying that Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle had given him a rain check for an up-or-down vote on the issue.
Murkowski is now trying to cash the check. The proposal he unveiled Friday would be an amendment to the same energy policy bill on which he hopes to place ANWR-drilling language.
Peninsula Clarion ©2013. All Rights Reserved.