Wednesday, February 21, 2007

New Plan Afoot To Bypass Congress's Ban & Drill Oil In ANWR

If it's not the Bush administration's ceaseless efforts to grab power over the other two co-equal branches of government, it's Republicans in those other branches assisting in their own demise.

Not for nothing, though.

Anchorage Daily News reports:
U.S. Sen. Ted Stevens on Monday tossed out a new approach for opening up the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge: Make it part of the nation's emergency stockpile of oil.

The idea came up during a nearly hour-long briefing for news reporters in Anchorage. Alaska's senior senator also talked about the war in Iraq, the Alaska gas pipeline and the interim U.S. attorney.

Stevens, wearing a casual brown shirt and no tie, said he was struck by a Sunday column in The Washington Post that analyzed President Bush's call to expand the Strategic Petroleum Reserve.

The stockpile consists of about 700 million barrels of federal-government-owned crude stored for a national emergency in huge salt caverns in Louisiana and Texas. The president can release it if commercial oil supplies are disrupted, and it also can be drawn down for other nonemergency reasons.

Stevens said his staff and Sen. Lisa Murkowski's have been reviewing the president's proposal, publicized last month in his State of the Union speech, to buy more oil for the reserve.

"We came up with the thought 'Why not ask that they add ANWR to the petroleum reserve?' And now this op-ed piece says the same thing," Stevens said.

The refuge lies in the northeast corner of Alaska. Its coastal plain is considered the nation's best onshore prospect for a major oil discovery. It also is an area prized by environmentalists nationally. Efforts in Congress to open the coastal plain to oil development have failed repeatedly over the past three decades.

In his column, Gal Luft, head of the energy security think tank Institute for the Analysis of Global Security, said "reframing the issue to cast the refuge as an emergency stockpile rather than a source of production might well change the politics."

Congress could compensate Alaskans by leasing the oil for a set amount of time, after which the state could sell it, Luft said in the column, under the headline "An Oil Reserve Right at Hand."

Alaskans who have tried to open ANWR to drilling said they haven't heard of this new twist but noted that execution would be very complex.

"I don't understand the concept," was the immediate reaction of Roger Herrera, an oil and gas consultant in Anchorage who has been working on ANWR nearly 30 years.

After giving the idea some quick thought, he said that additional exploration likely would be required to confirm the amount of oil in ANWR, and that equipment would need to be in place so that it could be extracted when needed.

Stevens told reporters he thinks the reserve idea may solve the ANWR issue.

"It is in the national interest to produce from ANWR and certainly by the time we could get it ready to produce it would be a ready reserve," Stevens said.

At a time when we need to be developing alternative energy resources.

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