Alaskans can take heart from (last) Wednesday's vote in support of Arctic drilling by the U.S. House; a majority of the members serving in this nation's most representative elected body clearly recognize that the oil lodged within the coastal plain of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge is an asset it would be foolish to lock away.
Alaskans familiar with North Slope oil fields understand that technology has steadily improved, reducing industry's footprint and its effects upon our environment. At the same time, Alaskans value and support necessary protections for the majestic Porcupine Caribou Herd, which traditionally calves in portions of ANWR's coastal plain. If and when oil development takes place within the refuge, Alaskans will see to it that industry's activities are conducted so as to preserve our caribou and other wildlife.
Alaskans, by and large, take these overriding principles as a starting point for development, and not just within the confines of ANWR. Most of us live here, enduring the
climate's hardships, for the very reason that we prize Alaska's wildlife, her rich fisheries and the incomparable frontier setting.
Alaskans thus grasp the distortions coloring the debate over Arctic drilling. We won't allow ANWR development to become an either-or choice between new oil dollars and preservation of the habitat supporting the Porcupine herd, migratory birds, polar bears and other wild refuge residents and visitors.
Alaska has the room and the public commitment to obtain both.
Lawmakers in the House are to be commended for applying common sense and ferreting out the facts.
Political prospects for opening the refuge to drilling are deemed much less promising in the U.S. Senate, where the Democratic leadership is regrettably playing to the environmental crowd, repeating the rhetoric equating development with an assault on America's so-called Cathedral of the North. Despite (last) week's House vote, Alaskans aren't likely to see immediate job calls and contracts for new pipelines stretching farther east across the North Slope.
What matters is that Congress backed the Bush administration in taking a strong stand against those who would lock away ANWR's coastal plain without regard for science, and without consideration for this nation's energy needs in years to come.
So long as ANWR's oil is banked for America's future, Alaskans can count themselves as victors. The American consumer's appetite for what petroleum provides hasn't flagged one barrel. The day is fast coming when the coastal plain's contributions (will be) welcome.
-- Fairbanks Daily News-Miner
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