Given his seemingly insatiable appetite for energy, Democratic Sen. John Kerry would hardly seem the ideal candidate to lead his party’s ill-advised, counterproductive filibuster against a defense appropriations bill because it includes an amendment authorizing the Interior Department to grant leases for the exploration, development and production of oil and gas in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge in Alaska. Married to a woman who flies him and herself around the country in her private, energy-guzzling Gulfstream II jet visiting their five mansions heated and cooled with increasingly scarce, ever-more-expensive energy resources, Mr. Kerry and his family surely consume far more BTUs than 99.99 percent of America’s households he sought to represent as president last year. Nevertheless, there he was, holding a press conference Monday pledging to defeat the defense spending bill because it included the ANWR provision. The filibuster tactic, which Democrats have used in previous years, requires them to muster only 41 votes, rather than a majority.
The timing of Mr. Kerry and the Democrats is horrendous. Accelerating a trend that had begun decades ago, hurricane-affected crude oil production in the United States plunged by nearly 1.4 million barrels per day (more than 25 percent) in October compared to average daily output during the first six months of the year. As a result, U.S. imports of crude oil and petroleum products soared beyond 14 million barrels per day in October. That import level represented nearly 70 percent of total petroleum products supplied, setting an import-dependency record. October petroleum imports were also 60 percent higher than the 8.8 million barrels per day the United States imported in 1995, when President Clinton vetoed legislation authorizing oil and gas exploration in ANWR. Meanwhile, the price of natural gas has been hitting record levels lately, far outstripping rates prevailing as recently as two or three years ago.
Clearly, the production of oil and gas in ANWR will not by itself solve America’s increasingly serious energy problems. What should be equally clear, however, is the fact that part of the solution must come from increasing domestic output of oil and gas in areas like ANWR, which would almost certainly be producing more than 1 million barrels per day today if President Clinton had not vetoed legislation permitting exploration there a decade ago.
Earlier this year, ANWR opponents failed to muster a majority of Senate votes to prevent the ANWR provision from being included in this year’s budget reconciliation bill, which is protected from filibusters in the Senate. However, last month Republican moderates in the House forced House Speaker Dennis Hastert to strip the ANWR provision from the House’s version of reconciliation. Having already been approved by a Senate majority, the ANWR provision was recently added to the defense appropriations bill. With a majority of Democrats voting for the defense bill, the House easily passed it early Monday morning by a 308 to 106 margin. So, Mr. Kerry and his Senate Democratic colleagues will now filibuster the defense appropriations measure. Failure to develop oil and gas resources in ANWR would make a worsening energy problem all the more serious.