- The Washington Times - Thursday, April 18, 2002

The Democrat-led Senate is set today to kill President Bush's plan to expand oil drilling in Alaska, while Majority Leader Tom Daschle promotes his proposal on ethanol to benefit corn growers in farm states like his own.
Asked if there was any hope of Republicans winning the vote on drilling for oil in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR), Senate Republican Conference Chairman Rick Santorum had a one-word reply: "No."
"This could be a vote that haunts us forever," said Senate Minority Leader Trent Lott of Mississippi, citing political instability in the Middle East and Venezuela, two critical sources of oil for the United States.
The White House has promoted the measure as a centerpiece of its national energy plan to lessen America's dependence on foreign oil. The Republican-led House approved the plan, including the ANWR provision, last summer.
But Senate Democrats, citing environmental concerns, said they have more than the required 40 votes to block the plan. Faced with certain defeat of the measure, Republicans were talking privately yesterday about the possibility of offering more ANWR amendments to force Mr. Daschle to pull the overall energy bill from the floor.
"It would be the worst result, if we ended up with nothing," said Sen. Joseph I. Lieberman, Connecticut Democrat.
Mr. Daschle said he is "pleased" that Democrats are on the verge of defeating the ANWR proposal, and he continued to promote increased production of ethanol, a fuel made from corn and other commodities.
"You're going to see small producers, like those in South Dakota, community co-ops who are producing ethanol for the first time who are going to be competitive in those markets for the first time," Mr. Daschle said. "This is good for our country; it's good for agriculture; it's good for the environment."
His plan would triple the use of ethanol as an additive in reformulated gasoline by 2012. Current ethanol production is 1.7 billion gallons per year, and the proposal has bipartisan support from farm-state senators.
But several prominent Democrats oppose Mr. Daschle's amendment, including Sen. Charles E. Schumer of New York, who said yesterday he will offer an amendment to strip it from the energy bill.
"The ethanol mandate is an astonishing, anti-consumer requirement that would force every refiner in the country to use an ever-increasing amount of ethanol or pay a penalty," Mr. Schumer said. "But guess who really gets stuck with paying that fine you, me and anyone else who drives and pays for gas."
The ethanol requirement also is unpopular in auto-dependent California. Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein called it "terrible public policy," and said it "amounts to a new gas tax on the nation."
As the ANWR provision headed for defeat, supporters of the drilling measure accused Democrats of hypocrisy on the issue. The Council of Republicans for Environmental Advocacy (CREA) criticized Sen. John Kerry, Massachusetts Democrat and a leading opponent of ANWR drilling, for driving away from an Earth Day rally on the Mall in 2000 in a chauffeured, gas-guzzling sport utility vehicle.
"It's unconscionable for Senator John Kerry to stand on stage and tell the American public to accept higher gasoline prices, forgo energy stability and to hold Congress to his standard of environmental integrity, while behind the scenes, he and his friends arrive in chauffer-driven SUVs and limousines," CREA President Italia Federici said.
Mr. Kerry said Americans "can drive any size car they want" and added that he no longer drives an SUV.
"I got rid of my SUV in Boston in order to get a van which is more fuel-efficient," he said.
Asked if he drives an SUV in Washington, Mr. Kerry replied, "My wife has an SUV, I don't own one. And we're getting rid of it. We're downsizing to minivans. I find it's a much more comfortable car."

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