Republicans adopted their national platform last week, and the 92-page document includes several items of interest to Alaska and its residents. The Alaska items, many of them long-expected, should do the state well when they come to fruition.
Heading the list, of course, is the opening of a fraction of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to oil exploration. ANWR has been a staple of the national Republican Party for years, and though the effort has been thwarted by congressional Democrats and the Clinton administration, it is one that is worth the continued struggle.
''Using the most sophisticated technologies, we can explore and develop oil resources here at home with minimal environmental impact ... ,'' the platform reads. ''We have already wasted precious time. If the previous administration had not vetoed the ANWR proposal passed by the Republican Congress in 1995, at this moment ANWR would be producing up to 1 million barrels of oil a day.''
Some might scoff at that last line, but it is correct. The oft-stated timeline for ANWR production is about 10 years, assuming oil is indeed found in sufficient quantity and there are no technical, regulatory or legal delays. So Alaska might be enjoying ANWR oil at a high price right now.
The GOP's mention of ANWR is a marked difference from the platform of the Democratic Party, which has had many of its Senate members including Democratic presidential nominee John Kerry leading the fight to prevent ANWR exploration. The Democratic Party's platform makes no reference to the refuge.
Alaska's energy potential also is seen in another part of the GOP platform. The party states its support for construction of a natural gas pipeline from the North Slope to the Lower 48 to bring ''needed relief to consumers and make America's businesses more competitive in the global marketplace.''
The platform doesn't get into the details platforms generally don't so it's unclear how differences of opinion over incentives will be resolved between the White House and some congressional Republicans. But it's good to see this substantial project retains general GOP support.
The platform also raises issues of concern to Alaska Natives.
On disparities in minority health and health care, the GOP platform says such unequal conditions are unacceptable.
''Historically, African Americans, Hispanics, Asian Americans, Pacific Islanders, American Indians, and Alaska Natives have experienced poorer health outcomes and received lower-quality care than the majority of Americans,'' the platform notes. ''We are funding research to find cures and treatments for illnesses that disproportionately affect minority populations, as well as targeted, well-coordinated programs to prevent, manage, and treat these diseases.''
On federal-tribal relationships, the platform offers what it describes as guiding principles. They include the following:
Tribal governments are best situated to gauge the needs of their communities and members.
Political self-determination and economic self-sufficiency are twin pillars of an effective Indian policy.
Private-sector initiatives, rather than public assistance, can best improve material conditions in Indian communities.
Alaska is no afterthought to the nation's well-being and is no stepchild to be given scant attention. The Republican Party's platform for 2004 makes that quite clear.
The Fairbanks Daily News-Miner - Sept. 3
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