GOP pushes plan to open ANWR, expand offshore drilling

Senate Republicans are making another bid to open the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to drilling — but this time they are trying to sweeten the offer by dedicating a quarter of the revenue to renewable energy projects.

The ANWR drilling plan is embedded in energy legislation unveiled Thursday by more than two dozen lawmakers, led by David Vitter of Louisiana and John Cornyn of Texas.

The bill also would restrict environmental groups from filing legal challenges to energy projects, force the government to approve a pipeline that would bring Canadian oil sands crude to the Gulf Coast and clear the path for Shell to begin oil drilling in Arctic waters near Alaska.

“This measure will take the boot off the neck of domestic energy producers and unlock our domestic energy potential,” Cornyn said.

Sen. Jim DeMint, R-S.C., said the legislation “gets Washington out of the way of America developing its own energy resources.”

Republicans cast the measure as an immediate balm for rising oil prices, which have been pushed up by unrest in Libya, Egypt and other parts of the Middle East.

But Democrats and administration officials stressed that any new drilling projects — even if approved today — could take years to produce oil and gas. And even then, the added energy production might not make a difference in oil prices that they insist are set globally.

David Alberswerth, a senior policy adviser at The Wilderness Society, said the Republicans’ drilling bill “puts the foxes in charge of the hen house” by effectively ceding control of federal lands to oil and gas companies.

With crude oil above $100 per barrel, both political parties are advancing energy proposals that promise to ease pain at the pump for Americans.

President Barack Obama on Wednesday pitched his plans for slashing U.S. oil imports by a third over the next 14 years, including support for natural gas-powered vehicles and stronger fuel-efficiency requirements for cars.

House Republicans have unveiled bills that would expand domestic drilling. A House Natural Resources subcommittee is set to hold a hearing on the leading legislation by Rep. Doc Hastings, R-Wash., next Wednesday.

Although the House is expected to pass pro-drilling legislation, the chances in the Democratically controlled Senate are much slimmer. And proposals to tap ANWR have always been political hot potatoes.

But Vitter said he thinks the political pressure from rising gasoline prices could change the dynamic on Capitol Hill.

“Wait and watch,” he said. “As the price at the pump goes to four dollars, . . . attitudes can change pretty quickly. We saw that in the summer of 2008, and I think we’re about to see that again.”

Plans to open the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to drilling are perennials on Capitol Hill, offered every time gasoline prices rise. Drilling advocates say opening the refuge would give the U.S. access to an estimated 11 billion barrels of oil in the region. But environmentalists say the oil gains would be small, especially given the risks of damage to wildlife and habitat.

In recent years, Republicans have tried new tactics to make ANWR drilling more attractive. The latest gambit, by Alaska’s senators — Republican Lisa Murkowski and Democrat Mark Begich — would have allowed oil companies to use new horizontal drilling techniques to explore the refuge’s reserves, as long as their footprint was not within the federally protected area.

The measure introduced by Vitter and Cornyn today would dedicate 25 percent of oil and gas royalties from ANWR drilling to a trust fund for alternative and renewable energy development.

16 Comments

  1. WriterDude

    ANWR drilling is some of the most expensive there is, and the oil will be expensive when it hits the market. The only reason conservatives are pushing this initiative is because it is in Alaska, and if it passes, drilling in other environmentally sensitive areas, including national parks, will be easier to accomplish politically.

    #1
  2. Dweezil

    Instead, let’s drill in Riveroaks and Tanglewood.

    #2
  3. Rex

    We are ok with drilling and killing as long as it’s in someone else’s country.

    #3
  4. Trail Trash

    Ahhh…the picture of the polar bear is a nice touch, but dispite what Al Gore might tell you, the polar bears spend all their time out on the pack ice, not along the coastly plain of ANWR. Might just as well show a picture of oil field roughnecks clubbing baby seals.

    #4
  5. leansright

    This argument has gone on for years.The same reasons from both sides.What is the real reason behind not drilling?What is the risks of damage to wildlife and habitat?There is not much habitat in that area.Who lives there besides a few elk and small animals that will never be hurt by drilling?Is there something being hidden from the public?

    #5
  6. BON JOVI

    It was illogical for man to pursue energy to their extinction. Quote from Man Magazine circa 2025

    #6
  7. Oil Patch 41

    People should really do some research before they post stupid responses. ANWAR is a frozen waste during the winter and a flat artic tundra during the summer. The area to be drilled is only 2 sq miles of the total ANWAR space. Yes it is expensive to drill there but no more than the deep water in the gulf. If anyone believes Obama they will be living in caves and eating bark from trees, he does not know anything about anything. IMPEACH the idiot now!!!!!!!!!

    #7
  8. MUNDYJM

    At least someone is trying to do it, while Obama either drags his feet or is choking the industry!! How you liking those prices at the pump?

    #8
  9. tanstaafl

    “…take the boot off the neck…”?

    Geez, Cornyn, really?

    #9
  10. theallknowningone

    No idiot mouth breathers, the POTUS doesn’t want us living in caves and riding bikes. He wants us to get serious about cutting back on our oil dependency. What is wrong with that?

    Drilling up there in Palinville will do nothing to drop the price of oil.

    #10
  11. Peter

    Well, if Exxon wasn’t making an obscene profit of 8%, we’d be paying $3.22 for gas instead of $3.50. At $3.22, I can pour gas down the sewer if I chose, but at $3.50, I may be going to the poor house. [Sarcasm Off]

    #11
  12. ec342

    Finally! Some common sense!!

    #12
  13. Dollar

    Obama says there are ” no quick fixes ” to our energy problems, too bad they did not drill ANWR five years ago and we would not need quick fixes.

    #13
  14. Jackalope

    Yes, drilling takes months or years for the production to reach the market, but the goal is 14 years from now. Yet the administration refuses to allow this because it won’t happen overnight. Likewise, a well that comes online today probably won’t be producing 14 years from now. If you’re going to set a goal for the future, you have to plan now to meet it, not wait until the day before.

    #14
  15. Dollar

    Gotta luv this ” no quick fixes ” from Obama, this after he’s well into the third year of his term and he’s worried more about CO2 emissions than developing domestic oil and gas reserves.

    He was told when he was running for office that natural gas was the answer, and they told him that we were vulnerable to unrest in the Middle East, and he ignored natural gas.

    The man’s lips could not form the words ” natural gas ” because it was a fossil fuel.

    Now he’s got his arse in a jam, he’s oil prices over a $100 per bbl, an economy tipping toward going back into recession, and an unemployment rate that has yet to dip below nine percent …….

    And the guy comes around to natural gas.

    We get this guy out of office fast enough.

    Quick fix ………. yeah right.

    #15
  16. yrac

    Let’s drill Riveroaks, I love it. Why not drag a barge up the ship channel and drill from Buffalo Bayou? Get the offshore tax breaks to boot!

    #16