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Questioning Alaska's candidates: How do we open ANWR?

Here are the results of a Q & A the Alaska Journal of Commerce had with Alaska's Senate candidates. The Arctic National Wildlife Refuge continues to be an issue in this heated campaign.

Q. Assuming no progress on opening the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge this year, if elected, what would you do to further ANWR exploration (providing you believe it is warranted) in the next Congress?

Tony Knowles

I am a long-time proponent of responsible development of ANWRճ oil reserves. I testified in favor of this development before Congress both as mayor of Anchorage and governor of Alaska. ANWR failed to muster enough support to make it into Senate energy legislation this year. Twenty-four years of Murkowskis in the Senate (Frank for 22 years and Lisa for two) have failed to win support to open ANWR. Opposition in both parties has stymied action. Alaska needs a new strategy, one that includes new arguments and a new senator making the case for responsible development. The latest failure on ANWR is tied to the failure of the energy bill. While special interests packed the bill with unrelated pork, they left out the responsible conservation measures like alternative energy and fuel consumption standards. As governor, I demonstrated that using sound science, prudent management and stakeholder involvement goes a long way toward resolving differences in the development vs. environment debate. As a pro-development governor whose efforts opened millions of acres to drilling while insisting on environmental safeguards, I believe I am uniquely positioned to convince fellow senators that we can safely tap ANWR oil without harming the environment and wildlife. Gasoline prices are high and America needs new sources of energy. No one disputes that. What we must do is convince ANWR drilling opponents that environmentally sound development really is possible and the way to go. ANWR should be part of a comprehensive energy bill that also includes conservation measures, fuel efficiency targets, alternative energy projects, protections for property owners in coal bed methane development, as well as the Alaska natural gas line.

Lisa Murkowski

In the words of Senator Ted Stevens, it's not over (opening ANWR) until we win. The number one thing that must occur to promote the responsible development of ANWR is Republican control of the White House, Senate and House. Under Republican control of the Senate, it only takes the vote of 50 Senators to open ANWR. Under Democrat control it would take the vote of 60 Senators. That is because the best chance for opening ANWR is through the budget process that is not subject to filibuster. With Republicans in control, we can include ANWR in the annual budget where it only takes 50 votes to defeat an amendment stripping out the ANWR provisions. With Democrats in control and leadership that has pledged to keep ANWR closed, ANWR would not be written into the budget, meaning it would take 60 votes to overcome a filibuster on the Senate floor to include ANWR provisions.

With this reality in mind, I continue to educate my colleagues in the Senate on ANWR's importance and the ability to develop ANWR in an environmentally responsible manner. We need to continue to recruit and elect more Republicans to Congress who understand the importance of domestic oil development. I will reach out to our allies in farming, trucking, aviation and manufacturing that are being harmed by high oil prices for their support. I will also support responsible efforts to produce alternative fuels and promote energy efficiency so ANWR oil will be part of a balanced energy plan - not simply seen as a stubborn effort to produce our way out of our energy dependence on foreign sources.

Jim Sykes

Alaskans are beginning to understand that our precarious national energy security cannot be solved with or without oil from the Arctic Refuge. The United States uses 25 percent of the world's daily oil production, but our country has less than 3 percent of the world's oil. If we produced all of our domestic oil (which is not possible) without shifting to renewable fuels, our military and economy face perilous risks. With no oil of our own, we would be totally dependent on oil from the Middle East, Africa, Latin America and Russia. We need to conserve our own oil and import as much foreign oil as possible while we implement conservation measures and shift to renewable fuels as quickly as possible.

Alaskans are also coming to understand that Arctic Refuge oil is a bad economic deal. We would have to produce almost two barrels of Arctic Refuge oil to get the same royalty we get from one barrel on state lands, where the largest and most accessible oil supplies are most easily available for the next 30 to 40 years. There is little natural gas in the Arctic Refuge.

Alaska has potential for a win-win situation to help our nation toward energy security by: 1) Producing available oil and heavy oil mainly on state lands where we get 90 percent royalty; 2) Building the all-Alaska natural gas line to Valdez; 3) Building pilot projects for renewable energy such as producing hydrogen from wind power and other solar, tidal, wind and micro-hydro energy sources; and 4) Energy conservation. If we do it right we will make the shift to renewable fuels. Alaska will continue to be a major energy exporter, and the Arctic Refuge can remain wild as our savings account for future generations.

Permalink :: Posted by Clay Butcher on September 29, 2004 :: ::
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