- The Washington Times - Sunday, February 24, 2002

President Bush says national security "makes it urgent" that the Senate pass an energy bill allowing oil drilling in Alaska's pristine Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.
"New technology makes it possible" to preserve the "tremendous natural beauty" of Alaska "while carefully developing the energy beneath a small fraction of it," Mr. Bush said yesterday in his weekly radio address.
"Our national security makes it urgent," he added.
The Senate returns tomorrow from a week-long recess and is expected to begin debate on an energy bill. The president yesterday used his radio address to urge approval for oil drilling in ANWR, the most contested element of his energy plan and one that faces tough odds in the Democratic-controlled Senate.
Rep. Eliot L. Engel, New York Democrat, who appeared yesterday on CNN's "Target: Terrorism," said he agrees with Mr. Bush that it is a "matter of national security" to find more domestic sources of energy.
"But I absolutely disagree with his wanting to drill in the Alaskan wilderness. … I don't think we should use the terrorism crisis as an excuse to drill in Alaska," Mr. Engel said.
The Republican-dominated House passed an energy bill last summer that would permit exploration for oil on a 1.5 million-acre portion of the 19 million-acre wildlife refuge, but would restrict actual drilling to 2,000 acres. In his radio broadcast yesterday, the president said drilling can proceed with minimal environmental damage and argued that the move is necessary to meet the country's energy needs.
"Oil consumption is projected to increase by about a third during the next 20 years. Our demand for electricity is expected to rise by 45 percent. America is already using more energy than our domestic resources can provide, and unless we act to increase our energy independence, our reliance on foreign sources of energy will only increase," Mr. Bush said.
"Conservation technology and renewals are important. Yet they alone cannot solve our energy problems. We must also reduce America's dependence on foreign sources of oil by encouraging safe and clean exploration at home," he said.
Mr. Bush stopped in Alaska en route to Asia last week. "I talked to many Alaskans, including native leaders. … Alaskans know first-hand that modern technology allows us to bring oil to the surface cleanly and safely, while protecting our environment and wildlife. We should listen to Alaskans who support exploring ANWR in a safe and clean way," he said in his address.
The administration estimates that at least 5.7 billion barrels of oil and possibly as many as 16 billion barrels may be recoverable from ANWR. Environmentalists contend the refuge contains no more than 3.2 billion barrels, an amount too small to drastically reduce dependence on foreign oil. Opponents of ANWR drilling also say it would endanger polar bears, musk oxen, 130 species of migratory birds and thousands of caribou.
Mr. Bush said yesterday his energy plan is "vital" for national, energy and economic security.
"Economic growth requires reliable and affordable energy, and labor organizations support my plan because they know my energy plan means thousands of new jobs across America."
Rep. Peter T. King, New York Republican, who also appeared on the CNN talk show, supports ANWR drilling and denies claims by New York Times editorial writers that Republicans are "fixated" on it as a solution to this country's energy problems.
"We're not fixated. I think this is a multifaceted struggle that we have. We do have to become energy-independent. … I do think ANWR is an important part of it," he said.
Given that drilling would be carried out on "such a tiny, minute area of Alaska," Mr. King said he does not "see any danger at all to the environment." He said he believes the drilling would yield "significant" benefits.

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