Congress says 'no' to ANWR without national energy policy

Posted: Wednesday, May 01, 2002

Politics triumphed over policy when the U.S. Senate killed legislation to drill for oil and gas in Alaska's Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.

Apologists argued drilling would spoil the environment without providing much oil and that the emphasis should be on conservation.

But the project would use only a tiny portion of the refuge and, if past is prelude, wouldn't harm the environment. The number of caribou at Prudhoe Bay has increased from 3,000 to 23,400 since drilling began there 20 years ago. That helps explain why 75 percent of Alaskans,

including the Inupiat Eskimos who live in and near ANWR, support onshore oil development there.

There are perhaps 12 billion barrels of oil in the ground there, the equivalent of 30 years of imports from Saudi Arabia. If used to supplement existing supplies, that would hold prices down to a reasonable level for a long time while new energy sources are developed -- and that would be done by the private sector, not by politicians.

Progress has been made on electric cars and, in fact, electric-gasoline hybrids already are being mass produced. Fuel cell technology also is being developed. The Bush administration has a long-term energy strategy. Because of the Senate's failure to act, however, a short-term transitional policy is missing.

Nobody wants to spoil the environment. That makes a vote in favor of ANWR easy to demagogue in this election year. In killing the program, a majority of the Senate took the easy route.

That's a good way to get re-elected but a disastrous way to construct a rational energy policy.

-- The Florida Times-Union, Jacksonville

April 27

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