Murkowski invites Obamas to talk ANWR drilling over milkshakes

Alaska Sen. Lisa Murkowski has invited President Obama and first lady Michelle Obama for a milkshake to discuss producing oil in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge — all while drilling for it from outside the area.

The GOP senator’s invitation was motivated by an exchange Thursday between White House spokesman Jay Carney and a reporter, who had asked about Obama’s position on legislation that Murkowski and Alaska Democrat Mark Begich co-sponsored last year that aims to harvest oil that’s in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge with drilling done from outside the area.

The reporter used the analogy of saying the bill would allow the U.S “to drink ANWR’s milkshake” from a drilling operation outside of the land.

To which Carney responded: “Well, I haven’t had a discussion with him about the milkshake principle.”

Many liberal Democrats and the Obama administration have raised concerns about drilling in ANWR because of the area’s environmental and ecological sensitivity. Meanwhile supporters such as Republicans and some oil-state Democrats argue that ANWR holds vast potential and that oil and natural gas can be produced from certain parts of the refuge with minimal environmental impact.

“I know that the President and the First Lady enjoy milkshakes, and it would be my honor to treat them as we discuss the innovative technologies that will allow us to put a ‘straw’ into North America’s largest oil field from outside ANWR boundaries,” Murkowski said in a statement. “Without any harm to the surface of the coastal plain, we can produce a huge volume of oil at a time when our nation desperately needs it.”

The Alaska Wilderness League, a conservation group, has ripped into the Murkowski-Begich legislation, calling it “just another scheme to open the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to risky and dangerous oil and gas development” with unproven horizontal drilling and subsurface technologies.

Carney didn’t comment on the merits of that bill, and it still isn’t clear whether the White House will accept Murkowski’s invitation. But Carney insisted Obama is committed to “safe and responsible” development of oil and natural gas.