WASHINGTON -- Gov. Tony Knowles had just begun his news conference here Wednes-day afternoon when the polar bears showed up.
The bears -- members of Greenpeace in mascot suits -- were there to disrupt the governor's message that Alaskans want the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge's coastal plain opened to oil drilling.
They succeeded for a few minutes.
The polar bears and a crew packed in large plywood sign naming Knowles as ''BP Amoco Employee of the Year'' for ''consistently placing the interests of BP Amoco over Alaska's environment.''
Knowles paused for a moment while Gary Cook, legislative director for Green-peace's ''climate campaign,'' loudly offered his views on why Knowles deserved the award. The governor's aides repeatedly asked the Greenpeace members to let the press conference continue and save their statements and questions for afterward, to no avail.
Finally, the Greenpeace activists having finished their statement, Alaska Commissioner of Natural Resources John Shively was able to escort Cook out by the elbow. The governor's assistants packed out the plywood award shortly afterward, just as the governor expressed his confidence that the message from Alaska was well-received in Washington.
Knowles acknowledged some skepticism here. Some wonder how he can talk about using ANWR oil to supply energy to the nation when at least some of the oil is being exported, he said. He said that it's economically better to trade a barrel of oil than continue to import greater and greater amounts. And in times of national security crisis, the executive branch has the power to commandeer domestic oil production.
''But that doesn't fit on a bumper sticker very well,'' he said.
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