God vs. Norton

Debra J. Saunders

12/30/2002 12:00:00 AM - Debra J. Saunders
WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Interior Secretary Gale Norton recalls that she started 2002 facing a barrage of advertisements against oil drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Reserve sponsored by the Sierra Club and the National Council of Churches. "The National Council of Churches contends that the solution is to consume less and leave the ANWR as God made it, clean, frozen and populated by wild animals, not pipelines, jetports, scrap metal and contaminated waste sites," announces the council on its website. Norton is sufficiently miffed that she brings up the National Council of Churches on her own. Her loss: Norton can't quip, "Where would Jesus drill?" Or: "If God had opposed drilling in ANWR, he wouldn't have made Ford Explorers." So she won't give much of an answer when I ask her if she thinks God opposes drilling in ANWR. "I really don't want to go into that," Norton replies warily. "People's religious beliefs are up to them." Norton presents a photo of hundreds of caribou grazing with in half a mile of an active oil rig and production facilities at Alaska's Prudhoe Bay. Yes, that's wild animals eating and relaxing, to paraphrase the church-enviros, near Alaskan pipeline, scrap met al and industrial building "as God made it." "It's always difficult to talk about emotional reactions," Norton notes. "What we need to explain is the reality of the situation, the reality shown by pictures, that caribou can co-exist with 25-year-old technology. The (caribou) population has grown by several multiples." Indeed, there are nine times as many caribou at Prudhoe Bay than there were in 1974, according to George Ahmaogak, the Inupiat Eskimo mayor of the North Slope Borough. America, Norton notes, "is a nation that runs on petroleum." So enviros argue against drilling in ANWR by asserting ANWR doesn't really have much oil. They cite a U.S. Geological Survey that it would be economically feasible to recover only 3.2 billion barrels. "Such a small amount of oil," the National Council of Churches website practically sighs, is hardly "worth the destruction of a fragile environment." Of course, the website fails to mention that the 3.2 billion-barrel figure assumes that oil is selling at $20 per barrel. If the price hits $24 per barrel, the projected amount rises to 5.2 billion barrels. Last week, the price hit $32 a barrel and is expected to rise. The National Council of Churches is associated with an anti-SUV campaign that asks, "What would Jesus drive?" Maybe it also should ask, "Would Jesus leave out a pesky fact?" America's national security depends on a steady, secure oil supply. The Bush energy agenda, with ANWR drilling, made sense when it was proposed in May 2001, Norton notes, and, "It certainly makes sense after Sept. 11." You see two worlds at play here. There's Norton's world, where real people have real energy needs, and a realistic approach to meeting those needs. There's the "ANWR as God made it" world, also populated with real people with real energy needs, except that they're so special they oppose efforts to get more oil to fuel the cars they drive.