FAIRBANKS - President Bush's nominee for energy secretary promised to be an energetic advocate of oil drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.
Samuel Bodman also pledged to assist construction of a natural gas pipeline to tap reserves on Alaska's North Slope.
Bodman's statements came during his confirmation hearing Wednesday before the U.S. Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee. He currently serves as deputy secretary in the Department of Treasury.
"I want the assurance that you and your department will work with us," Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, told Bodman.
Bodman promised to do that.
"ANWR has been part of the energy policy that this administration has proposed, and I would expect to be an energetic advocate for it," he said.
"We regulate the drilling of oil and gas wells more effectively than any other country in the world that I'm aware of," Bodman said. "I would rather see it be done in this country where we have the kinds of laws and kinds of due process."
Democrats on the panel, many of whom oppose ANWR development, let Murkowski's and Bodman's comments on ANWR pass without challenge.
However, freshman Sen. Ken Salazar, D-Colo., asked Bodman where in general he thought development was acceptable, without getting into specific areas such as ANWR or Colorado's Roan Plateau.
"What kind of criteria do you envision using in terms of areas that are appropriate for development?" Salazar asked.
Bodman said decisions should preserve "the largest possible areas for environmental purposes while also trying to seek out additional supplies of energy."
The Department of Energy also is the major federal supplier of money for research into alternative energy systems and conservation.
The country needs more of both, Bodman said.
"I would seek additional supplies of energy only at the same time I would seek out all these other things with equal emphasis," he said.
Murkowski endorsed those efforts as well.
"I kind of get branded," she said, noting she represents an oil state but that alternative energy sources such as solar energy technology are important in Alaska, too.
"We've got 24-hour daylight in the summer time," she said.
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