April 14, 2002 The Fairbanks Daily News-Miner sees ANWR in a global context

Posted: Monday, April 15, 2002

Recent international events have once again highlighted the urgent need for the United States to reduce its dependence on foreign oil.

Iraq's call for an oil embargo against the U.S. because of unrest in the Middle East was cause for concern. However, it appears no other countries will be following suit, thereby reducing the overall effectiveness of Iraq's ploy to withhold oil. In truth, Iraq accounts for only a small percentage of the U.S.'s imported oil anyway, and alone it is questionable what effect it could have on the nation.

What should be of even greater concern is the unstable political situation in Venezuela. That country accounts for a much larger percentage of oil imported to this country. In fact, it is the fourth-largest oil producer in the world and the third-largest importer to the U.S. The potential effects of political upheaval there were recently clearly demonstrated. Protests led to a multi-day strike at government-owned oil facilities and threatened prices on the international market.

With yet another change in presidents, the Venezuela situation seems to be defused, at least for now. But this just proves that the U.S. should not be worried simply about our dependence on oil from our enemies. After all, Venezuela is not our enemy.

The real problem is that we are so dependent on foreign oil in general, and it is a situation that the nation must address. For too long, the U.S. has delayed putting together an energy policy that incorporates lessening dependence on foreign oil through increased domestic production and use of alternative fuels.

The opening of a portion of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge should be considered a part of such an overall strategy. The House last year passed an energy bill that included a provision to open ANWR, and the Senate has been debating its own version for several weeks now. ANWR has been a main sticking point in the Democratic-controlled Senate.

Sen. Frank Murkowski plans this week to introduce an amendment to the energy bill that would allow such oil development in ANWR. Although the future of Murkowski's amendment seems shaky at best, opening ANWR is a step that the Senate should take. While ANWR certainly is not the answer to all of the country's energy issues, passage of this amendment would be a signal that the U.S. is serious about finding ways to reduce its dependence on foreign countries.

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