By Kendrick Wilson
Arizona Daily Wildcat
Tuesday March 25, 2003
Oil is the name of the game these days. President Bush and his administration have an obsession with oil that is driving policies across the spectrum of issues.
The administration's energy plan ÷ if one can call advocating continued over-consumption a "plan" ÷ focuses entirely on expanding supply and calls for no reduction in demand. In fact, the plan calls for drilling in Alaska's Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. Drilling in ANWR has been dubbed by some the "keystone" of the administration's energy plan.
Thankfully, the Senate rejected drilling in ANWR 52-48 last Wednesday, thanks in no small part to our own maverick Republican senator John McCain, who voted against a majority of Senate Republicans and opposed drilling.
Alaska's Republican senator Ted Stevens, eager to bring jobs to Alaska at any cost, resorted to threats to encourage senators to vote in favor of drilling. As chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee, he has the ability to block any senator's pet project. The New York Times quoted him as saying "People who vote against [drilling in ANWR] today are voting against me. I will not forget it."
In spite of the lowest of scare tactics, a majority of senators could not be swayed.
The push to save ANWR from oil rigs came from California Senator Barbara Boxer, who was quoted in the Times as saying, "I'm so proud of my colleagues because that's kind of a threat from a very powerful senator. But you know what? There's something more powerful out there than any senator, even than any president, and that's God's gift to us. And we stood on that side of preserving this wondrous gift."
Despite the administration's greatest efforts and those of Alaska's Republican senators to convince the public otherwise, ANWR encompasses a fragile, unique ecosystem, home not only to caribou, but polar bears, muskoxen, arctic foxes, wolverines, grizzlies, snow geese, and a host of other magnificent species. Environmental devastation has already occurred in Prudhoe Bay where drilling is currently allowed to take place.
And the facts aren't on the side of drilling advocates when they claim drilling in ANWR will reduce our dependency on foreign oil.
They claim 16 billion barrels of oil could be recovered from ANWR, but the U.S. Geological Survey estimates that only 3.2 billion barrels could be recovered economically. In addition, as the Natural Resources Defense Council points out, it would take 10 years for this to reach the market, and when production peaked in the year 2027, ANWR would only supply slightly less than two percent of our projected oil demand.
Permanent damage to a unique ecosystem in exchange for a miniscule amount of oil ÷ sound like a fair tradeoff? In the world of President Bush, where oil is held supreme, apparently it is.
In his State of the Union speech, President Bush did manage to throw conservationists a bone when he promised money for hydrogen-powered cars.
Sadly, this feeble effort is too little, too late. He already staunchly opposed extending stricter fuel-efficiency requirements to SUVs.
Something is lacking in American fuel efficiency subsidies when Honda and Toyota (both Japanese companies) not only lead the fuel-efficient market, but are the only car companies to market hybrid vehicles with any degree of success.
And as our troops are overseas fighting a war in Iraq, the underlying motive of oil cannot be hidden, despite the President's greatest efforts. There is no question that Saddam Hussein is an evil dictator who may very well threaten international security, but the White House's tough stance on weapons of mass destruction and human rights seems to show its face only when oil is also at stake.
If human rights were the main concern, the U.S. would not turn a blind eye to the atrocities committed in Saudi Arabia, which stands to benefit from the United States taking out Saddam Hussein. The evidence of links between Saudi Arabia and al-Qaeda ÷ far more convincing than that of links between Iraq and the terrorist network ÷ would be taken seriously if security were the central concern. As long as Saudi Arabia continues to sell oil to American companies and President Bush is in the White House, even the most substantial evidence will continue to be ignored.
At a pro-war rally set up in opposition to antiwar rallies last week in Tucson, Robert White, a 17-year-old first time demonstrator told the Tucson Citizen the antiwar protesters are "just a bunch of hippies stuck in the past. They say Îno blood for oil,' but we're not fighting for oil, we're fighting for freedom."
Ahh, the na•vetŽ of adolescence!