- The Washington Times - Wednesday, April 17, 2002

With the Senate poised this week for its final showdown on President Bush's plan to procure oil from the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR), voters will be the least of the concerns on the minds of their representatives in comparison with bald eagles, polar bears, caribou, and even mosquitoes.

At least this is true of the 40 or so outlaws who support a filibuster on the drilling measure. This political gun battle has been going on for nearly a year, so it's worth repeating a few of the points:

• Americans are facing a double-barreled energy security crisis. Nearly 60 percent of the oil America uses comes from overseas, which makes consumers extremely vulnerable to overseas oil shocks. Even worse, almost half of that comes from nations that comprised the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC), and last year, 9 percent of it came from Iraq. Every time they fill up, Americans fuel a posse of nations whose citizens have already killed thousands of Americans in cold blood.

• ANWR is a surefire hit for billions of barrels of oil about 10.4 billion, according to the median estimate of the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS). That's 1 million barrels each day for the next three decades, enough oil to give a generation of Americans cover against OPEC's oil arrows.

• Caribou and other Arctic critters don't stand a chance of being wounded by ANWR drilling. Only 2,000 acres of the 19.5 million acre refuge can be touched that is one one-hundredth of 1 percent of the land in a frozen wilderness.

While several opponents popped off about a March USGS report that supposedly showed caribou would be harmed by tapping into ANWR's energy reserves, those findings were based on worst-case "science fiction stories" of costal development far greater than would be permitted under the House-passed bill that Mr. Bush has backed. Besides, while the authors of the March USGS report estimated that there are 123,000 caribou in the Porcupine Caribou Herd, the herd most in the line of fire from drilling, they couldn't determine why the herd's numbers have been oscillating for the last 30 or so years and declining for the last 10. Meanwhile, the populations of caribou around the Prudhoe Bay fields have increased dramatically since its energy fields were developed.

• ANWR's coastal plain is about as pristine as the Wild West. That is to say, there are a couple of military installations and a community of settlers (actually Eskimos) with roads, houses and schools. They are begging for oil development because it will mean community development and employment above a bare subsistence existence.

• A majority of Americans also support ANWR drilling, perhaps because they know it means both energy security and economic security an estimated 736,000 new jobs and $325 billion to the economy, according to estimates by Wharton Econometrics.

All most Americans need do is pull up to their local gas pump to understand the pros and cons of the ANWR issue. When fuel prices shoot up in the high summer or during a showdown with some Middle East tyrant, guess who will get the blame? Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle and his filibustering Democrats should take a few moments to think about that.

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