- The Washington Times - Monday, July 23, 2001

President Bush, against all the odds, appears to be winning the battle to enact a new energy policy that calls for producing more energy.
Last week, House Democrats tried to kill the centerpiece of that policy — drilling in Alaska's Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR) — in the House Resources Committee but were defeated 29-19. Notably, five Democrats voted to support, Mr. Bush's position that simply stated if we are to become more energy independent, we must drill for more oil here at home.
The president's plan, calling for stepped-up development of energy resources, cleared the committee and went to the House, which could take it up before the August recess. Rep. Bill Tauzin of Louisiana, a Democrat who turned Republican, and a White House ally on energy policy, called the vote "a giant leap in ensuring the availability of inexpensive and environmentally friendly energy for this and future generations."
Meantime, over in the Senate, Democratic leaders are doing their best to block any consideration of Mr. Bush's energy plan, though the president won some key preliminary votes against Democrats who tried to delay any further drilling 100 miles off the coast in the Gulf of Mexico.
The conventional wisdom in this town was that the administration's energy plan was dead on arrival. The environmentalists were against it. The Democrats were against it. And the news media was against it.
However, this may be one of those legislative battles that slowly turns on the facts and on cold hard reality: Demand for energy is way up. Energy supplies have not kept pace with that demand. (Just ask Democratic Gov. Gray Davis of California.) America has a lot of untapped energy resources at its disposal. We need to put them to work.
But the anti-energy production crowd has been effectively spreading myths about Bush's proposal to drill for oil in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. The news media do little if anything to refute them. Here are a few examples:
Myth No. 1: There is relatively little oil to develop in ANWR, perhaps only six months supply at best, and so it isn't worth doing.
Fact: Studies by the U.S. Geological Survey say that ANWR alone could yield up to 16 billion barrels of oil, the equivalent of 30 years of oil imports from Saudi Arabia or more than enough to replace the oil we would get from Iraq for 58 years.
The same anti-drilling naysayers were predicting that we would get only 9 billion barrels of oil from Prudhoe Bay when it began production. Today, we're at 11 billion barrels and still pumping. Experts now believe that ANWR could produce "the largest amount of oil ever discovered in America."
Myth No. 2: Drilling for oil in the Arctic Wildlife Refuge will destroy wildlife and the environment.
Fact: Drilling at Prudhoe proved we can extract oil from the ground without harming the environment. For example, since drilling began there, the Arctic caribou herd has grown from 3,000 to 27,500.
Elsewhere, oil production and wildlife have long co-existed side-by-side. There are 46 oil wells in the wetlands of Louisiana's famed Atchafalaya National Wildlife Refuge, where endangered species such as the American bald eagle and the Louisiana black bear are thriving.
Myth No. 3: We do not need to dramatically increase energy production.
Fact: "Today, America is more dependent on foreign oil than during the 1970s oil crisis. Foreign oil producers decide how much oil we will have. They drive up prices at will. They hold the keys to our economy," says the Energy Stewardship Alliance.
Myth No. 4: If we allow drilling in ANWR, we will destroy the pristine landscape and scar a beautiful and untamed wilderness.
Fact: ANWR covers nearly 20-million acres, but less than 2,000 acres will be used to drill for oil leaving 99.99 percent of the land untouched.
New production technology including multilateral wells, directional drilling and other horizontal underground drilling makes it possible to drain a much larger area of oil from a single, small oil-drilling pad. In the 1970s, one pad on the Alaska's North Slope could produce oil from about 16 square miles of subsurface. Today, one drilling pad can drain 64 square miles beneath the surface of the Earth.
In addition to Democratic congressional support from oil producing states, Mr. Bush is also picking up some surprising allies among organized labor.
"What we are saying to our Democratic friends in Congress is that this is about jobs in America," says Teamsters President James P. Hoffa. And according to Wharton Econometrics Forecasting Associates, at least 735,000 new jobs.
But Democratic opposition to the president's energy independence plan is fierce. Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle shows no inclination to bring up Mr. Bush's energy bill anytime soon. House Democrats, unconcerned that the nation is facing long-term future energy shortages, are busy investigating whether the oil industry helped Vice President Dick Cheney's task force to develop the plan.
The White House no doubt did hear from oil industry officials as it set about to put together its plan to deal with energy shortages. So what? They are in the business of producing energy. Why is it shocking that their advice would be a part of the solution to America's dangerous dependence on imported oil?

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