Senators slipped on oily ANWR provision
Both of Hawaii's senators voted to allow oil drilling in Arctic refuge lands.
SENATOR Inouye cast his vote to open the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to oil drilling in deference to a long-time friend and colleague from Alaska.
Senator Akaka did the same in support of a group of native Alaskans who would reap oil profits at the expense of other native cultures.
The two ended up on the losing side this week as Democrats found enough sensible minds among Republicans to reject the provision that further fixes the nation's energy policies in unsustainable resources and that could hijack protection for other wildlife havens.
Both should re-examine to whom their commitments are due when the issue arises again, which it surely will since Alaska's Sen. Ted Stevens has vowed to put oil fields in the refuge.
Stevens, who enjoys a close relationship with Inouye, cynically attached the drilling provision to a must-pass bill to fund the Pentagon, avian flu preparations and Gulf Coast hurricane relief. However, the distasteful, last-minute move backfired as Democrats, sans Inouye and Akaka, along with two Republicans refused to be bullied.
Proponents contended that the provision would have had minimal effects on the refuge when, in truth, it would have allowed drilling activity in all but 45,000 acres of the 1.5 million-acre spread. The so-called "footprint" limit of 2,000 acres in the measure was artfully deceptive. For example, it would not count the miles of pipelines installed, just the support pads on which the lines rested.
Stevens rationalized the provision's inclusion in the defense appropriations bill by claiming it was vital to the nation's energy security. No one disputes that reducing foreign oil imports is imperative, but ANWR's yield, as estimated by the Bush administration, would supply the country with only a year's worth of oil.
The administration and Congress would better strengthen energy security by aiming funding and other incentives toward research and development of alternatives, such as Hoku Scientific's venture in fuel cell technology. A Hawaii-based company surely deserves as much consideration from Inouye and Akaka as Alaska's interests.
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