Opening ANWR is a national security issue

Posted: Monday, May 01, 2006

This editorial appeared in the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner:

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How's this for a headline:


That's the headline that accompanied a story that arrived over the wire on Tuesday and that should be a hard slap to any member of Congress who opposes opening a small part of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to oil development.

What the story noted was that Iran, the nation that raises the U.S. national ire more than Iraq does, is receiving more than $68 billion a year in oil revenue, which it no doubt is using to fund the nuclear development program aggravating Western leaders and to supply terrorist organizations with support.

If Iran does act against the West and curbs its exports, the effect would be significant. Iran supplies 2.5 million barrels a day to the global oil market, and the ripples would reach this country, according to an account of a former State Department official, through the loss of perhaps a million jobs.

That's just one estimate, and estimates surely vary depending on which analyst you talk to.

But it shows the headline about the threat to national security can't be overestimated.

The U.S. already finds itself buffeted by oil problems associated with a wacky leader in Venezuela, which is a leading exporter to the United States, and attacks in oil-producing nations in Africa.

Iraq, meanwhile, hasn't seen its rich oil fields return to pre-war production levels and is constantly having to protect them from terrorist disruption.

Let's make it clear right away - opening ANWR will not by itself reduce the threat to national security. No one should be suggesting it will.

But opening the refuge as part of a comprehensive energy package that includes increased mileage standards for vehicles, increased spending on alternative energy sources, a heightened use of nuclear energy and a commitment to energy conservation makes sense.

And opening the refuge isn't a wild idea, either; Congress back in 1980 said it might be allowable when it set aside the refuge's coastal plain as a development candidate when it was passing the Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act.

Slowly, eventually, reluctant members of Congress will come to see this and will change their view. The question, however, is one of time: Do we have time to wait?

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