- The Washington Times - Thursday, August 1, 2002

Top Republican lawmakers this month will wage a last-ditch effort to link opening the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge for oil exploration to the increasing threat of war with Iraq.
Citing new reports that Iraq could be developing biological weapons, Republican lawmakers said yesterday they will press for passage of an energy bill that includes drilling in Alaska's ANWR as a matter of national security.
"Every year we decide not to produce this reserve for America is another year we send Saddam Hussein a $20 million check," said Rep. Billy Tauzin, Louisiana Republican, who is heading a House-Senate conference that must iron out differences between competing energy bills in the Senate and the House.
"He uses that money to support terrorist organizations, support families of suicide bombers that go and attack the Israelis, and to support training camps for terrorists," Mr. Tauzin said in a meeting with editors and reporters from The Washington Times.
He plans to spend this month trying to gather support among lawmakers for new drilling in Alaska. After the August recess, Mr. Tauzin will, in coordination with the White House, begin a "public relations campaign" to drive home the point that developing more domestic energy will reduce the nation's dependence on Iraq for steady supplies of oil.
Though the United Nations maintains economic sanctions against the government of Saddam Hussein, Iraq remains the fifth-largest producer of oil exported to the United States.
With 112.5 billion barrels of proven reserves, Iraq stands second only to Saudi Arabia in terms of total oil production.
Mr. Tauzin and Sen. Frank H. Murkowski, Alaska Republican and ranking member of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, contend that the amount of oil that Iraq exports to the United States could be offset in a few years by oil production in ANWR, a swath of land on the northeast corner of Alaska.
Mr. Tauzin and Mr. Murkowski cited increasing reports that Saddam Hussein continues to develop biological weapons inside Iraq as evidence that the United States must take steps to reduce its dependence on exports from nations that are hostile to U.S. interests.
"What amazes me is this lack of a connection between all of this Iraqi stuff and the reality that we are importing somewhere between 800,000 and 1 million barrels a day from Iraq," said Mr. Murkowski, also the lead Senate Republican on the Energy conference.
"We take out his targets once in a while. He tries to shoot us down. Then he takes our money and pays his Republican Guards to keep him alive, and he develops a weapons capability aimed at our allies," said Mr. Murkowski, who also attended the meeting with The Times.
The Democrat-controlled Senate in April passed an energy bill that featured fuel-efficiency standards for cars and tax incentives for conserving and producing energy, but excluded drilling in the Alaskan refuge.
The House last year approved a bill that opens about 2,000 acres of ANWR to drilling.
Many Democrats and their environmentalist allies counter that it is not clear how much oil could be recovered from the Alaskan refuge.
The U.S. Geological Survey has estimated that there is between 5.7 billion and 16 billion barrels of technically recoverable oil in the refuge.
What is not clear is how much of that oil could be recovered taking into consideration the price of oil and extensive costs associated with exploration, production and transportation.
Opponents of drilling in ANWR say the United States could reduce its dependency on foreign sources of oil much faster through conservation, such as mandating more fuel-efficient cars.
"If national security is the question, then fuel-economy standards that are much higher for SUVs are the answer," said Rep. Edward J. Markey, a Massachusetts Democrat also on the conference. "If we want to deal with that issue, then drilling in the Arctic is not the answer."
Mr. Tauzin said he will work through the August congressional recess to gather support for Alaskan drilling.
So far the conference has ironed out most of the less difficult provisions of the energy bill. Alaskan drilling remains the most contentious and politically polarizing matter to be resolved.
Mr. Tauzin said he is confident that Congress will deliver an energy bill for President Bush to sign this fall.
He said it remains "50-50" whether a provision allowing for drilling in the Alaskan refuge would end up in a final bill.
"Our plan is to use August to organize the conferenceand to use September in a public relations campaign to remind Americans how critical the bill is to homeland security," Mr. Tauzin said, adding that he has been working with the White House to coordinate that message.
One leading Democrat, though confident that an energy bill would reach the president by the fall, said it was unlikely that a final bill would include Alaskan drilling, despite Republican efforts to link the issue to national security.
"I don't see any opinions changed by the effort to do that linkage," said Sen. Jeff Bingaman, New Mexico Democrat and chairman of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee.
In a related matter, the Energy Department said yesterday that it will boost the U.S. emergency crude-oil stockpile, though a spokesman said the move should not be interpreted as a precursor to an attack on Iraq.
Any attack against Iraq would be likely to cut off exports of its oil to the United States. The Strategic Petroleum Reserve, with 578 million barrels of oil, could be tapped in the event of war or another national emergency.
An Energy Department spokesman told Reuters news agency that the additional oil is part of the Bush administration's plan to fill the emergency reserve with a capacity of 700 million barrels by 2005.
The spokesman said the move was not connected with any plans to attack Iraq.

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