Alaska editorial: Low-key energy secretary could help push Bush's agenda

Posted: Tuesday, January 25, 2005

This editorial appeared in Thursday's Fairbanks Daily News-Miner:

It should be a surprise to no one, of course, that President Bush's nominee to become the nation's next energy secretary is a supporter of the president's energy policy goals, which include opening the coastal plain of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to oil drilling. What is surprising to many, however, is the identity of the nominee: Samuel Bodman, deputy treasury secretary in the president's first term.

Washington insiders, whose favorite post-election game is Guess the Cabinet Members, had expected the president to choose either someone with close ties to the energy industry or someone who is a close Texas friend.

Mr. Bodman, in fact, has been a low-key Washington worker who also served as deputy commerce secretary. He reportedly knows his way around the workings of government and during his tenure in the capital has managed to remain respected, noncontroversial and out of the headlines.

And those are facts that could stand him well in lobbying those skeptical members of the public and Congress regarding President Bush's energy agenda, which in addition to opening ANWR also includes support for an Alaska natural gas pipeline, encouraging increased development of traditional and alternative energy sources, and urging development of a hydrogen-powered automobile.

And, if comments from his Wednesday confirmation hearing before the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee are an indication, he might also have a way with words that could aid in convincing people about the safety of opening ANWR.

"I am an engineer and I tend to think of things in analogies," Mr. Bodman told committee members, who include Sen. Lisa Murkowski of Alaska. "ANWR is about the size of South Carolina, and the coastal region that contains the hydrocarbons is about the size of Delaware. It is a relatively modest - 15 percent or so - (portion of ANWR). And the surface area that will be needed with the new drilling technology to pursue oil would be about the size of Logan Airport in my old home town (of Boston). So it is very small."

At a time when opponents of ANWR drilling are girding for serious war on the issue, continued plain talk like that from Mr. Bodman might go a long way to countering what is sure to be a nationwide campaign of misinformation.

President Bush's energy agenda went nowhere in his first term, and although the increased Republican representation in Congress should increase the prospects in his second term, having a good spokesman for the administration's energy plan remains a necessity.

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