FAIRBANKS (AP) -- Rep. Don Young suggested that House and Senate negotiators should allow oil drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge if they want him to back tax credits for ethanol additives in gasoline.
''You want ethanol? I want ANWR,'' Young said Thursday as a House-Senate conference committee on energy legislation opened.
Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., warned the committee not to put a provision in the bill that would open the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to oil drilling because the Senate would kill the entire package.
''I say to my colleagues: If you want a bill, don't bring it back to the United States Senate to redecide what we've already decided,'' Kerry said.
Young didn't like the sound of that.
''The idea that they're going to tell me that we're not going to talk about ANWR or we're not going to have a bill, well, I could say the same thing about ethanol,'' Young said. ''Let's put it right on the table, right now.''
Young, R-Alaska, said he is not happy about the ethanol provisions in the Senate version of the energy bill.
The tax credits would come out of money for the Highway Trust Fund, the main federal pot from which road work is funded. As chairman of the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, it is Young's job to oversee the spending of the highway money, and he is fiercely protective of the dollars.
Young questioned why ethanol-fueled vehicles, which put the same demand on roadbeds as any others, should be given a preferential tax rate.
''We're about to take and subsidize an industry to the tune of $500 billion,'' he said. The Senate approved the ethanol tax credit at the urging of members who said it is a renewable, clean-burning fuel.
But taking the money out of the Highway Trust Fund is like cutting an artery, drinking the blood and declaring that ''we're making progress,'' Young said.
Nevertheless, Young said, a conference committee is a ''two-way street.''
The House bill contains language opening ANWR to oil drilling. The Senate version does not.
Young said conference committee members who are inclined to vote against ANWR drilling should have the ''decency to go and see it ... instead of sitting in a little castle and breathing that rarefied air.''
Sen. Frank Murkowski wrote a letter inviting conferees to meet in Kaktovik, the village located on the northern edge of ANWR's coastal plain.
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