Alaska editorial: Lessons to be learned from efforts to tie up ANWR

Posted: Friday, January 12, 2007

The following editorial first appeared in the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner:

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It hasn't taken long for opponents of opening a small part of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to energy development to take advantage of the opportunity presented them by the arrival of a Congress controlled by Democrats. The day after Democrats took control of the House, Massachusetts Democratic Rep. Ed Markey introduced legislation yet again to designate ANWR's 1.2 million-acre coastal plain as permanently protected wilderness.

This time, however, Rep. Markey, joined by a Republican colleague, has a greater opportunity for success in the House.

There's no clear indication that Markey's short-sighted idea will pass the House this time, though its prospects are certainly far greater than they would have been while the House was under the control of pro-development Republicans. Even if the bill does pass the House, it faces a filibuster by some Senate Republicans. And the bill would surely face a veto by President Bush even if it were to miraculously pass both houses of Congress.

Rep. Markey's legislation is not what the country needs. The experts' long-term predictions for the price of a barrel of oil tell us that.

Analysts say ANWR's coastal plain could contain more than 10 billion barrels of oil. That's no small amount for a nation hungry for oil - admittedly too hungry - tired of high energy prices, and that finds itself in increasingly stiff competition with other nations for a dwindling supply of known oil reserves around the globe. Because of that, however, the refuge has found itself as the symbol of something much larger and more passionate than a simple debate about getting oil from one specific place: It has become a focal point for competing visions for the energy future of this country.

Alaskans need to look at both the micro and macro views.

So what should Alaskans take from this latest effort to button up ANWR? That we shouldn't count on revenue from ANWR development any time soon and that the state, its people, the energy industry and, yes, the Alaska environmental community, should work hard to see that the next Congress and the next president understand that drawing energy out of ANWR is essential, but that should only be a part of what should be a comprehensive national energy policy that includes greater use of alternative energy and greater emphasis on conservation.

That should be the real message taken from this latest effort to lock up ANWR.

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