President Bush's energy package - approved by the U.S. House and vital to the nation's economy - is bogged down in the U.S. Senate. Remarkably, what should be the package's primary selling point is, due to overzealous environmentalists, its primary sticking point.
We're referring, of course, to that part of the bill that would allow a tiny section of Alaska's Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to be opened up for oil exploration and development. This should be a no-brainer. After all, Congress set aside the acreage on ANWR's coastal plain in 1980 to ensure the nation would have domestic oil in the event the international oil market became unstable.
The Mideast is in turmoil. Saddam Hussein says he's cutting off oil to the West and is urging Iran to do the same. Venezuela, a key oil producing country in our hemisphere, is in chaos. If that's not enough instability, then senators should look at the price of crude. It's all over the place.
Alaskans overwhelmingly favor ANWR drilling - and that includes the Eskimos who live there. Is this because Alaskans don't care about the environment? Certainly not. They know - unlike mindless environmental radicals - that exploration and drilling will not materially damage the plain's pristine landscape or negatively impact its wildlife.
Right now there are enough votes in the Senate to pass the Bush energy package, which also has conservation and other energy saving measures in it, but there are probably not 60 votes, which is what it would take to kill a sure-to-be mounted filibuster.
Pro-energy senators are pulling every "you-scratch-my back, I'll-scratch your-back" maneuver they know to get to 60 votes, but even that might not be enough. Majority Leader Tom Daschle, D-S.D., still has some parliamentary tricks up his sleeve.
The best bet for the Bush energy plan is for senators - especially those up for reelection this fall - to get an earful from their home state constituents.
Environmental radicals seem to think the nation's energy needs can be met with windmills, solar gimmicks or fusion. These may be alternate energy sources someday, but that day's still a long way off. In the meantime, we'll have to make do with what we have. And that means developing reliable energy sources, including oil.
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