I’m hoping Christie Todd Whitman’s recently expressed ambivalence about
drilling for oil in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR) is a false alarm. Now is
not the time for fecklessness from the Bush administration on energy policy.
It is important that Bush stick with his campaign pledge to increase domestic
oil production generally and tap into ANWR specifically. There are no new facts that
would justify an about face by Bush on these issues. The only thing that has
changed is that Bush has taken some courageous stands on environmental issues
and thereby aroused the public ire of environmentalists.
But he will have their eternal ire no matter what he does short of complete
capitulation and homage to the earth goddess Gaia. If he backs away from his
commitment to a responsible energy policy now he will also earn the displeasure of
his conservative base, which is counting on him to govern on principle and not cave
to the formidable political pressure of the green groups.
Democratic Senators Lieberman and Kerry, sensing that Bush is vulnerable
on environmental issues, have each been attacking Bush in their dueling effort to
pander to their extremist constituencies with a view toward a 2004 presidential run.
Lieberman told "Face the Nation" that he might subpoena documents that the
EPA used to justify its recent rescission of certain Clinton administration initiatives.
Kerry slammed Bush for cutbacks on energy conservation and alternative fuel
These senators are not the only ones piling on the administration. The eco-
extremists have all but painted Bush as a mad scientist deliberately poisoning our
water with arsenic. The ceaseless barrage is apparently having an impact. Interior
Secretary Gail Norton defensively denied that the Bush administration was hostile
toward the environment and lamented that the Bush team had failed "to get our
With all due respect, Secretary Norton, this has nothing to do with the
administration’s communication skills. I repeat, you will not pacify the extremists, no
matter how polished your tongue. As one activist from the National Wildlife
Federation promised, "We’re going to continue to put pressure on the administration
... every step of the way from here on."
President Bush has done an admirable job so far of governing on principle
and ignoring the polls. If he continues to allow his cabinet members to vacillate,
however, he’ll appear to be holding his finger in the wind. Perhaps it’s time for
another trip to the woodshed for Secretary Whitman.
Sometimes it’s tough to govern as a conservative because environmental
groups are adept at propaganda and distorting facts. In this area, as in others, the
facts and actual science must control, not emotions and junk science. Let’s take a look
at some of the facts:
-- ANWR contains 17.5 million acres, and Bush only plans to explore for oil
on 1.5 million of them, which is around 8 percent. More importantly, if oil is
discovered, less than 2,000 of those acres would be affected.
-- It is estimated that the exploration would create between 250,000 and
735,000 new jobs. Similar projects have added tens of billions of dollars to the
nation’s economy in the past. The federal government itself would reap an estimated
windfall of billions of dollars from companies bidding for the right to drill.
-- Scientists estimate that there are between 6 and 18 billion barrels of
recoverable oil, which would measurably decrease United States dependence on
foreign oil. Presently we import more than 55 percent of our petroleum.
-- Contrary to environmental hysteria, oil and gas production in the region
would not pose a significant threat to wildlife in the region. Modern technology has
led to drilling and production techniques that involve limited impact. In other areas of
similar production, such as Prudhoe Bay, the caribou population has grown
dramatically (sevenfold) despite the apocalyptic predictions of the doomsayers.
-- More than 75 percent of Alaskans support exploration and production in
-- National Review magazine has brilliantly exposed the flip-flop of the major
media on the issue, demonstrating that both the New York Times and Washington
Post editorialized in favor of ANWR exploration not too many years ago and
downplayed the environmental risks attached.
I know these facts are inconvenient for single-issue environmentalists, but
President Bush has to consider them and weigh other concerns, such as our energy
needs and the economic ramifications involved. May the facts and not political
pressure guide his decision.