Bartlett shocks cohorts, backs Arctic drilling

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HAGERSTOWN, Md. (AP) - Rep. Roscoe G. Bartlett, a conservative Republican with an unusually green reputation, said yesterday that he will co-sponsor a bill to allow oil and natural gas drilling in part of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR) after years of opposition.

Mr. Bartlett cited skyrocketing crude oil prices in announcing his support for the American Energy Independence and Price Reduction Act, which would send all the revenue from drilling leases in the refuge’s coastal strip to alternative and renewable energy programs.

“I have resisted drilling in ANWR because I believe that these oil reserves are like money in the bank that is yielding huge interest rates,” Mr. Bartlett said in a statement. “Today, with oil at $134 per barrel, there is obviously no surplus energy or capital to invest in alternatives.”

Mr. Bartlett acknowledged that drilling would do some environmental harm in the coastal strip, where polar bears, musk oxen and caribou abound. But he said, “I am convinced that the environmental impact will be minimal.”

The announcement drew praise from the Washington-based ANWR drilling advocacy group Arctic Power. Spokesman Adrian Herrera called Mr. Bartlett’s support “hugely important.”

“He sees that it’s not a case of black-or-white destruction of the environment or use of natural resources - that both can be achieved responsibly in a very clean and safe manner,” Ms. Herrera said.

But Mr. Bartlett’s general election opponent, Democrat Jennifer P. Dougherty, called the reversal “predictable and sad.”

“He says one thing to us and then, when push comes to shove, when party leadership twists his arm, he votes with them,” Ms. Dougherty said.

Mr. Bartlett said in a telephone interview that he had not changed his position.

“I said I would not support it unless they were going to use the money from drilling in ANWR to invest in alternatives,” he said.

But when asked by Environment & Energy Publishing’s webcast program “OnPoint” on Sept. 28, 2005, about drilling in ANWR and the outer continental shelf, Mr. Bartlett replied, “Well, I’m not going to vote for drilling in either one of those places, and my reason is that if you have only 2 percent of the known reserves of oil and use 25 percent of the world’s oil and import two-thirds of what you use, I’m having a hard time understanding how it’s in our national security interest to use up the little bit of oil we have as quickly as possible. If we could pump ANWR and the offshore oil tomorrow, what would we do the day after tomorrow?”

His similar comments two days earlier at an energy conference in Frederick drew cheers from the audience.

Bartlett spokeswoman Lisa Wright said he has voted against ANWR drilling bills since at least 2004. In 2005, he founded the Peak Oil Caucus, a group of House members who think the world is near the peak of oil production, and that only reduced demand can stave off a global economic catastrophe.

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