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Jewish World Review May 2, 2002 / 20 Iyar, 5762

Martin Gross

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Consumer Reports

The irresponsible U.S. Senate | On April 19, the U.S. Senate, by a vote of 54 to 46, rejected President Bush's bid to drill for oil in the ANWR, the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge on Alaska's North Slope facing the ocean.

Those of us who have covered Washington for some time have seen the excesses, the omissions and the partisanship of Congress, but this recent action takes irresponsibility to a new level -- one based on ignorance and distorted political ambition.

While the Arab countries, which are so important in feeding the nation's appetite for oil, are threatening an embargo, and while the United States is openly announcing its desire to invade and conquer Saddam Hussein for the second time, every source of oil is vital for our national security. When that inevitable invasion, necessary for stability in the world, takes place, there could be an explosion in oil prices, along with the promise of new gas lines.

Not only would Iraq stop its shipments to the United States, but nations such as Libya and Iran, and other Middle Eastern countries, could follow suit, adding to the pinch on our economy. Drilling in the ANWR will not rectify the current potential emergency, but it is Congress' job to anticipate such emergencies in the future and plan for them.

Had Congress authorized drilling in federal lands in Alaska -- which take up 59 percent of the state -- years ago, we would be much closer to oil self-sufficiency today. To break the nations' dependence on foreign oil, Congress needs to authorize more drilling on our best potential, federal lands in Alaska. According to the U.S. Geological Survey, there are 33 billion barrels of potential in Alaska -- some 11 years worth of current domestic production.

Drilling in Alaska has always been a national controversy, if needlessly so. Twenty years ago, after great furor over drilling on the North Slope, Prudhoe Bay -- developed on state rather than federal land -- now produces some 20 percent of all the nation's domestic oil. At the time, environmentalists screeched that we would be destroying the "pristine beauty" of the land. Not only was that not true, but in addition, the caribou are alive and well, while our oil supply has been greatly enhanced.

Now, the same "the sky is falling" rhetoric of environmentalists has frightened our politicians -- especially the Democrats -- and stopped the ANWR drilling, which would occupy only 2,000 of the 1.5 million acres to be opened for exploration within the 190,000,000 acres in the federal preserve.

Of course, none of the exaggerated horrors are true. In fact, the so-called "delicate balance" of the land and its beauty are equally false. Says the former director of oil and gas for the state of Alaska, "The North Slope is one of the ugliest places in the world, a flat miserable plain that is tundra-like." He adds that the state has done an excellent job of handling that ugly environment.

The irresponsibility of our senators is based on their fear of the well-organized environmental lobby and worry about re-election, and not on what should be their true motivation -- national security. Even Sen. Joe Lieberman, Democrat-Conn., one of the few Democrats who voted for the first Gulf War, joined his colleagues in voting against ANWR oil development, a strange twist of logic.

The environmental lobby is a strange melange of people: sincere advocates for purity of air, water and land; faddists who like to be considered "sensitive"; and anti-Americans who use the environmental hammer to weaken American security. It is difficult to separate the three, but those of us who know the importance of breaking the Arab grip of our oil supply also know that we should close our ears to the strident, false fears of this potent lobby when it comes to oil drilling.

Our senators should follow suit immediately and show some unexpected responsibility. They need to restore drilling for oil on the North Slope and other parts of federal land in Alaska. It is the only acceptable patriotic stance in this most dangerous of all worlds.

Comment on JWR contributor Martin Gross' column by clicking here.


04/25/02: How to slice the pork out of congress' hide
04/11/02: He's no American
03/31/02: Federal Aviation Administration is a threat to our security
03/14/02: Alaskan oil -- another Saudi Arabia?
03/07/02: Secretary Mineta must go
02/28/02: How to reform the IRS tax code
02/21/02: Those darn Europeans -- again
01/31/02: Director of Homeland Insecurity
01/24/02: Musharaff -- Gorbachev of the Muslim world?
01/17/02: Can we stop a nuclear plant attack?
01/09/02: More failed federal aid to education?
12/11/01: The 'American Giant' is still sleeping

© 2002, Creators Syndicate