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Thursday, April 07, 2005

No guarantee ANWR oil will stay at home

My earlier post about Sen. Wyden's request for information about ANWR oil generated quite a bit of discussion. One observer claimed that legislation forbids the export of ANWR oil. Turns out that isn't necessarily so.

The House of Representatives approved legislation, HR 4, in 2001 opening ANWR to oil exploration. But the Senate failed to adopt a similar law, so it went nowhere. But HR 4 specifically forbid the export of oil from ANWR, in Sec. 6506(a)8, "Lease Terms and Conditions."

That was four years ago. It's a different ballgame now.

No legislation has yet emerged to actually open ANWR to drilling. A draft could appear any day now from the House Resources Committee, to be incorporated into the Republicans' forthcoming energy bill, which is emerging from its slumber. But there's no reason to presume it will include the same ban on exports contained in HR 4. The budget resolution approved March 16, SCR 18, contained no such restriction.

As we reported here earlier, analysts say ANWR oil is likely to go into the "global marketplace" rather than remain within the U.S. market. In other words, that's what the industry would like. And what industry likes these days, industry seems to get.

So, short of some new language forbidding export of ANWR oil, it seems likely we will sacrifice irreplaceable wilderness so that some other country can burn up American oil. So much for the hyperbole that drilling ANWR will loosen the leash between us and OPEC.

To make matters worse, it will probably be an oil-hungry Asian nation upwind of us that gets ANWR's oil, a place where pollution controls are not as strict, which will send more smog into America's lungs. Studies show that smog produced in Asia travels on trade winds across the Pacific and contributes to pollution problems in North America.

In short, we'll get to watch as ANWR wilderness is destroyed for a few months' worth of oil. And then we'll also get to breathe an extra dose of smog when the exhaust from that oil drifts back home.

Give your representatives in Washington a big "thanks," won't you?

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