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IN CASE YOU MISSED IT...Heads Stuck In The Tundra
January 10, 2007

Heads Stuck In The Tundra


Posted 1/9/2007

Energy Policy: The new Democratic majority wants to make the ban on oil and gas drilling in the ANWR permanent. Shutting down domestic supply is not a plan for energy independence.

No longer content with merely blocking Republican attempts to open the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to oil and gas exploration, Democrats have decided to make that ban permanent, forever protecting species that are in no demonstrable danger and that have flourished in nearby Prudhoe Bay.

While Cuba and China drill off the Florida Keys, Democrats worry about caribou. So do we, but not at the expense of American national and economic security.

On Friday, Rep. Edward Markey, D-Mass., introduced H.R. 39, legislation that would make the 1.2 million-acre coastal plain of the ANWR a permanently protected wilderness and end efforts to develop its energy resources for the benefit of the American people.

"The consensus is that there should not be drilling in the refuge, so the logical next step is to pass legislation which turns it into a wilderness," Markey said of his bill.

(The measure, by the way, is co-sponsored by Rep. Jim Ramstad, a Republican from Minnesota, proving that environmental hysteria can be a bipartisan phenomenon. )

Certainly there's consensus among America's overseas suppliers, ranging from OPEC to thugs such as Venezuela's Hugo Chavez, who would dearly like to keep us, uh, over a barrel.

Markey, who once said, "The proposal to drill in ANWR is an ethical crime because there is no national energy crisis," introduced similar legislation in each of the last three congressional sessions. With Democrats in control of the House and the Senate, he feels chances are good to get it through and on the desk of President Bush.

To pass the Senate would take 60 votes, with the GOP filibustering this time. And there's always Bush's second veto. But one never knows, with an undoubtedly friendly media putting pictures of threatened critters on the front page as we are reminded daily of the dangers of fossil fuels melting the Arctic and drowning polar bears by the score.

The "pristine" environment the Democrats describe is far from those wildlife scenes splashed on the evening news.

Winter on the 2,000 acres of the coastal plain where drilling would actually occur — an area smaller than Chicago's O'Hare Airport — is what hell would look like if it froze over. Total darkness reigns for 58 days. The temperature drops to 70 degrees below zero without the wind chill. Your spit freezes before it hits the ground.

As for the caribou, Ben Lieberman of the Heritage Foundation has said the caribou that migrate through nearby Prudhoe Bay, just 60 miles to the west of the ANWR, have increased in number from 3,000 to more than 23,000.

He also notes that another wildlife refuge in Alaska, the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge, has had drilling onsite for decades, with no discernible harm.

More than 15 billion barrels of oil have been sent down the Alaska pipeline from Prudhoe Bay over the last three decades, much more than the six months' supply predicted at the beginning by those who predicted a similar environmental disaster there.

Imagine our energy picture today had Prudhoe Bay been blocked as Markey et al. seek to do with the ANWR.

If President Clinton hadn't blocked drilling in the refuge in 1995, it would today be pumping more than a million barrels of oil daily into the American economy. That's two-thirds of the oil taken offline by Hurricane Katrina, which caused a significant price spike.

Just because we can't get all our oil from the ANWR doesn't mean we shouldn't get any of it from there. The U.S. Geological Survey has conservatively estimated that the refuge contains 10 billion barrels of oil, enough to supply the oil needs of Markey's Massachusetts for 75 years.

It's also enough to supply the oil needs of Washington, D.C., a place where there's no shortage of hot air, for 1,710 years. As we've said, with oil exporters like Russia, Iran and Venezuela holding much of the world's energy hostage, there's more than a few thousand caribou at stake.

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