Wednesday, March 16, 2005


If I'm not mistaken, I don't think I've ever written an entry concerning the Alaskan National Wildlife Refuge, or the obsession that many conservatives have with drilling there for oil. I did read Sean Hannity's book, though, and if I were to take that as my only source, I could conclude that as soon as ANWR is opened up for drilling, Jesus Christ will descend from Heaven with his angels and usher in a new era of energy independence that will last for 1000 years.

I may be exaggerating just a little bit.

But today the Senate voted to open ANWR to drilling. Thing is, it was done all sneaky-like. You might think that, with something like this, they'd propose it and let it get voted up or down. But that's not the way that it is, it seems. See, the Republican senators attached a rider to the budget to authorize the drilling, and the budget is immune to filibuster. Some Democratic senators brought up a motion to strip the budget of the ANWR provision, but it was voted down 51-49. That's awfully close, especially considering that there's 55 Republicans in the Senate. I guess 4 of them weren't feeling it today, or something.

They've been trying to open up ANWR for years and years, through straight votes, and it always failed. This sort of sneak attack wasn't even possible, since the Senate only just picked up three additional seats in favor of drilling. That meant that the last vote likely would have gone 55-45 in favor of stripping the provision, in a situation like this. But 51-49 is the barest majority with which you can pass legislation, and it's not nearly enough to block a filibuster.

The silver lining on this cloud is that the provision isn't technically passed yet. It's tied to the budget, and the budget has to be approved by Congress (which it wasn't last year) to be passed. But now a bit more about ANWR.

The pervasive claim by pro-drilling advocates is that the "footprint" made by the drilling site would be no more than 2,000 acres out of a 19,000,000 acre refuge. If you're playing along at home, that's just over one hundredth of one percent. Not too bloody much, right?

But what about the roads that will have to be built to get to and from this "footprint"? What about the houses of workers there, and the network of pipelines that will have to extend from the footprint out to the Alaskan National Pipeline (I think that's what it's called)? The 2,000 acre claim is pretty deliberately misleading, I think.

From the figures I've read that haven't come out of the mouth of Sean Hannity, or of other FOX News employees echoing Sean Hannity, the cost of getting up there and getting the oil isn't going to be worth the payoff, for how much oil there is. I'll see if I can't come up with some figures about that and post them in a comment sometime later.