"But if Mr. Bush's drilling plan passes in Congress after what is expected to be a fierce fight, it may prove to be a triumph of politics over geology.
Once allied, the administration and the oil industry are now far apart on the issue. The major oil companies are largely uninterested in drilling in the refuge, skeptical about the potential there. Even the plan's most optimistic backers agree that any oil from the refuge would meet only a tiny fraction of America's needs."
-Jeff Gerth, NY Times, February 21, 2005
The major oil companies have admitted that they are skeptical about the amount of oil under the Artic National Wildlife Refuge. A rational citizen would therefore assume that the Bush administration would opt to let sleeping dogs lie. If even the oil companies have lost interest, why further incense those of us who are opposed to the proposed drilling and exploration?
There are two answers to that question. First, simply because the administration can; our myopic, irresponsible president wants to line the pockets of his cronies, no matter the long-term cost. Secondly, because ANWR isn't about oil anymore.
The administration views ANWR not as battle between environmentalists and realists (though they certainly couched the debate in these terms a year ago)*, but as a fight between environmentalists and the Bush agenda. Should ANWR be opened for "explorative drilling," Bush will have won a symbolic victory and more political capital.
*Let's not forget that the Bush administration implied our energy policy under Clinton was weak in large part because the United States depended too much on foreign oil. Opening ANWR to drilling, they explained, would one day give us local reserves greater than those of Iraq.
The first assertion is absolutely true; we do depend too much on foreign sources of oil. For that matter, we depend too much on oil, period. The second assertion sounded bogus then and, judging by the quickly waning interest of the big boys, is proving to be so now.
Photo credit: A.W. Barnhart, Copyright 1999