President Bush: Put ANWR drilling in energy bill

Posted: Sunday, October 14, 2001

FAIRBANKS (AP) -- President Bush has urged Congress to adopt comprehensive energy legislation, which includes drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.

The president made his remarks Thursday, a day after Senate Democrats abruptly halted work on the package.

''The less dependent we are on foreign sources of crude oil, the more secure we are at home,'' Bush said before a Cabinet meeting. ''We've spent a lot of time talking about homeland security and an integral piece of homeland security is energy independence.''

The House passed its version of the energy bill in August, with the ANWR provision intact. Since then, however, the California energy crisis has eased, oil and gas prices have fallen, and the terrorist attacks have stolen the administration's attention.

On Wednesday, Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle ordered the Energy and Natural Resources Committee to stop all work on energy legislation. Instead, the Energy Committee chairman, Sen. Jeff Bingaman, D-N.M, will try to craft a compromise bill that Daschle would bring directly to the Senate floor.

Sen. Frank Murkowski, R-Alaska, said Bush's comments ''will have a very strong impact'' in the Senate and that drilling supporters are gaining ground, the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner reported.

Prior to the president's comments, such optimism wasn't shared by Sen. Ted Stevens, R-Alaska. Barring a change in the public's view of their own energy security, ANWR drilling will rest in a frozen state, he said Thursday in a meeting with Alaska reporters.

''You'd have to have a parade of horribles,'' Stevens said, referring to terrorist attacks or other disruptions.

Some senators are still threatening to filibuster any bill that allows drilling in ANWR. Overcoming that threat would require 60 votes, Stevens said, and ''very clearly we don't have 60 votes.''

Stevens said several senators have stopped him in the hallways and said they might vote for drilling now, but the Democratic leadership is adamantly opposed.

Stevens said he thinks people need to understand that developing ANWR is good insurance against possible oil supply disruptions that could be caused by restrictions from Mideast nations or by terrorist actions.

Environmental groups counter such arguments.

The Wilderness Society this week distributed figures showing that the Persian Gulf supplies about 13 percent of the nation's oil. Other sources are about evenly split between domestic production and imports from nations such as Canada, Venezuela, Mexico, Nigeria and the United Kingdom.

Also, the Strategic Petroleum Reserve exists to supply the country in emergencies, it said.

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