04/20/02:

White House May Fight on for Energy Bill, ANWR
Fri Apr 19, 5:49 PM ET

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The White House indicated on Thursday it may seek to reinstate a plan for drilling in an Alaska wildlife refuge following defeat of the proposal in the Senate.

"At a time when oil and gas prices are rising, the Senate today missed an opportunity to lead America to greater energy independence," White House spokesman Ari Fleischer (news - web sites) said after the Democratic-led Senate killed the plan to allow drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR). "The president believes that it's vital for Congress to enact balanced, comprehensive energy reform." [...] "We'll go to conference and try to improve the bill from what the Senate passed. The purpose of energy legislation is to try to make America more energy independent and that's the goal of the conference in the president's opinion," he said.


[from a related article by Josef Hebert AP]: [...] Many of the same senators who opposed the fuel economy increase raised alarms during the Arctic refuge debate over U.S. reliance on oil imports, said [Senator John] Kerry [[D-Mass]]. "They had no interest in national security when we put before the Senate a plan that would have saved America 1 million barrels a day in 2015 and 2 million barrels a day by 2020."


Both the advocates of improved CAFE legislation and the advocates of drilling legislation seem stuck on their respective points. They seem to be "standing on ceremony" or "standing on principle", not as a child might, but as a brat-adolescent might do, insisting on some oversimplified absolute philosophy while all about us so much action is needed. They have not been doing a completely good job of finding their way to learning from the opposition's point of view, they have not been acting in earnest, they have not done all of their homework, they have not acted with sufficient patriotism.

If the present Administration's goal really honestly is a balanced national energy policy which helps us attain complete energy independence, then they have long long way to go before they start acting like that's what they actually want. I think perhaps the same can be said for their opposition.

To approach this from the point of view of Republican Political Strategizing, opposition to Alaskan and Offshore California oil drilling can be reduced by removal of hypocritical attempts to subsidize that drilling. I say it is "hypocritical" because so much has been said to claim that oil and its business do not need subsidies, and to complain about the subsidization of their competition, and so much has been said by the advocates of drilling about the importance of sticking to free market principles (such principles usually defined in an incredibly over-simplified way). Apparently those principles completely go out the window when we're talking about subsidizing the businesses which helped put the President in power, and apparnetly principles of patriotic inquiry lose all power when they come upon the topic of examining how the very companies who want to drill have hijacked much of our foreign and domestic policy for the last several decades and led us to this very nasty point.

Opposition to Alaskan and offshore California oil drilling can be also be reduced by a more sincere advocacy of additional alternative energy efforts by the Administration. Instead of having to drag small concessions from the Administration of looking into and developing such alternatives we should find the Administration gladly and sincerely looking into such matters. That is not been the case. It has not been within a parsec of the case.

And yet there is no such thing as one single answer to how we can attain energy independence. If we are to achieve such a thing, all parties must look into even those methods that they dislike. If the advocates of drilling honesty want to drill, let them be realistic about what it would accomplish, let them be realistic about the need to put longer-term measures into place at the same time, and let them cease their games such as their obfuscation of the effectiveness of alternative forms of energy, the contributions that conservation could make and the possibilities for converting our vehicle fleets to run on alternative forms of fuel.

They know very well that many American consumers are somewhat interested in helping to conserve petroleum resources rather than continuing to send money to terrorists. It is a continued prescription for disaster to avoid finding a way to accomplish this just because our system has the weakness of being generally free market oriented. It is generally difficult to implement conservation measures in such a system, but we should try to find a way.

It can also be said with some justification that the opponents of continued drilling in North America have failed to really honestly assess the seriousness of the situation and the need to do everything possible to get domestic energy supplies going, even if these sourcing measures conflict with their environmental goals. I know that it is infuriating to watch drilling advocates pretend to want to be interested in a realistic independence-oriented energy policy when their actions somewhat say otherwise, but that does not invalidate the very real need that we have to be honest about the source of America's wealth, its energy and its industry. We cannot have our cake and eat it to. We have founded an industrial society in large part on the use of petroleum and we cannot continue to source that petroleum from the likes of Iran and Iraq. In some ways the matter is that simple.

I've noticed that in the midst of these debates the advocates of laissez-faire seem content to assume that the opposition to some industrial measures is either motivated by anti-industrial environmentalism or anti-big-businessism, and this is led to some big businesses easily being able to hide in the skirts of the advocates of laissez-faire. Many of those businesses have become weak, anti-progressive, anti-industrial, and generally somewhat less than honorable. This includes not only Enron which leered at frantic advocates from behind those skirts, but also the Detroit automakers who have shown some really disgusting dishonesty in the recent debates over CAFE.

Advovacy of the rights of big business and the rights of industrialists is only partial advocacy of a free society. It is not an equivalency. Every day I pass the buildings and I use the industrious products of our society in my work and I am glad that we live in a country where men have moved mountains and hopefully will continue to do so. We should battle to continue to guard their right to do so. In the meantime, those rights cannot be guaranteed by half-baked oversimplified arguments for such.

So, if the Administration would drop their disgusting little attempt to give $30 Billion in Tax Breaks (!) to their friends in the midst of oil drilling in Alaska and comprehensively review their other energy measures including their opposition to CAFE to see if we can't build a more balanced plan, I'm betting they could win a few Senators over in the Political Battles to get approval for ANWR drilling. I have elsewhere set forth other ideas such as, ultimately, a large-scale attempt to synthesize fuels from sustainable sources, such as Hydrogen or more complex energy-carriers from Photovoltaics. This could easily be justified as a military project in a free society at war, since so much of our military runs on Hydrocarbons presently sourced from the folks we're fighting.

Meantime, one last thing. It is frequently claimed that the American consumer is being given the opportunity within our free market system to choose measures which would use less gasoline and that he is not generally choosing this. This is a half-truth at best, and the ostensive advocates of free markets damn well know this. The American consumer has *never* been given the choice of buying a non-fossil-fuel based vehicle on any sort of realistic wide-scale, and as to the price of fuel, he is being insulated from some of the real price we pay for gasoline, such as having to send Trillions of dollars to people who use the money to fund worldwide terrorism. I think this insulation is set to last until such time as it caves in, in the worst way. It would be a pity if one of the first great industrial societies were to fail to overcome this roadblock that has been set up by the Oil Businesses. They were great and are great, but their goals should not be equated with Capitalism or Freedom for Americans, particularly when their products now come from our enemies.

I am actually quite tired of writing some of these essays, but how can I not? I'd like to study science and invent wonderful new inventions, or go do any manner of other thing. But with a few exceptions, such as tompaine.com, there are almost no integrated intelligent viewpoints out there on these matters, while the fate of the free world at stake. It is as though we are just supposed to be quiet and not say anything and go on working whilest we fight entire wars against those funded by our own oil dependencies while not doing a damn thing about those dependencies. I can't stand quiet in the face of that, no matter how wrong I may be on this or that. It's been 7 months since 9-11. When the hell are we going to take measures to reduce OUR funding of terrorism?


Some not-widely-known points about the Saudis and the other OPEC states, together with my spin.

  1. The Saudis have done a remarkably poor job of diversifying their econonmy and educating themselves about other ways to make a living: take away Oil and they will be in fierce difficulty. Here we see the basic facts of how their oil-wealth (which I've heard they nationalized-stole from Westerners who originally developed it in good faith Business Agreements) is still pretty much their only ticket to the dance. It accounts for not only 40% of their GDP, but also a wopping 90-95% of total Export earnings and 70-80% of State Earnings. So, if we want to pull the Rug Out from under their empire, I think it would partly just be a matter of stopping their Oil Exportation.

    A few years ago, the New York Times and other publications carried some articles which partly illustrated their growth and diversification problems: they had an electricity shortage for the present and near-future. Though they sat on Quadrillions of BTUs of Energy underground, they had not found a way to plan and implement adequate electricity plant construction appropriate for a modern State. Since Bin Laden's Family is in the Construction Business, I wonder why they weren't able to build such plants quickly enough. In any case, the Saudis clearly have lagged somewhat in proceeding to a point where they are no longer nearly-completely dependent on Oil Exportation for their Economic Health.

    Now, some have argued against destabalizing the Saudi Economy, but I don't see how we can continue to do business with folks who send money to the Terrorists. In so many ways, it's maybe not "that" simple, but... how isn't it? To hell with the Saudi Economy. There are many nice Saudi People, I guess, who do many nice things and have not wasted all their wealth (the same could be said of the Germans prior to WWII). But too many Saudis are continuing to take our money (which we shouldn't be giving to anyone if possible as a matter of business sense) and funding violence. Let the over-rated Head of Sate, who inherited the running of Saudi Arabia stop all of this violence-funding immediately. His family has allowed and encouraged the lost generations of lives near Israel for fifty years because they were not grown up enough to compromise, recognize Israel's right to exist as a free hegemonous country, and find the best ways to settle and support the Palestinians until they'd achieved admirable peace and stability and wealth and happiness. The Saudis and their leader should have taken, and still should take, a much more active and honest and earnest role in founding a Palestinian homeland peacefully and decently (as his family should have been doing for fifty years now). Then let us consider where American business should be with this relatively undeserving nation of philosophic-religious bigotry and feudalistic partitioning of semi-unearned-wealth.

  2. About a year ago the Saudis threatened to bring Legal Action if the Industrialized World stopped importing their oil. They are not completely stupid! (... except I guess when it comes to finding a solution to the Palestinian-Israeli Conflict... then they can't even find a way to recognize that Israel exists.... what a tough one. Never mind whether it was just to establish Israel... I wonder if any Saudi Arabians are being just a tad racist and bigoted and intransigent and sacrificing the prospects for millions of Palestinians).

    Since all of the Environmental efforts to reduce and eliminate fossil fuel consumption would have the effect of killing their economy, the question was, what could they do? Bring a lawsuit. They threatened to for Hundreds of Billions of Dollars (I think it was) to account for devaluation of their undeground Oil Reserves. This was, I think, quite revealing, and very quiet: I haven't heard a word about this since. But: Such a huge amount of money! They must really be scared, no? We should be even more scared: how much wealth are we needlessly giving away from our own economy? Do all Americans have nice houses and secure economic futures? Our Government has a 6 Trillion Dollar Debt, our President and Congress wouldn't know how to pay back this debt if they spent 240 years at Harvard to study the question (but they spend their time pretending to give us "tax breaks", and we all have friends who could use better economic futures. We must stop needlessly throwing away our wealth to other countries.

  3. The wallet funding the Palestinian and Southern Lebanon Terrorists is one that largely comes from OPEC whose wealth is directly derived in large measure from exporting Oil to the Industrialized World. Such nations as Qatar, Iran, Saudi Arabia and Iraq have citizens and government entities who are sympathetic to terrorists and find some ways to send money and weapons, including direct payments to those who carry out attacks, funding by Iran of the Hezbollah in Southern Lebanon for the last 20 years, and day-to-day support of the Palestinians. When a Palestinian blows himself and others to pieces, where do we thinking the funding has come from for the weapons and logistical support? The terrible economic plight of decent-minded Palestinians is a tragedy. I question whether the OPEC-rich nations give a damn about helping those Palestinians find a decent way of life or if they just want some pretext to use the impoverished Palestinians' plight forever until the Israelis are defeated. Rich OPEC men sit back and watch for decades as their supposed Palestinian brothers have no decent place to live. It is not just the Israelis that the Palestinians should assign blame to for their plight. The Israelis may be intransigent, insensitive and downright infuriating but with all their intellects they probably understand the concept of a decent person having a decent homeland in which to live. Do the OPEC backers of the Palestinians care about any of this? The terror-wallet of the OPEC-ers can be immediately diminished should the Industrialized World dramatically reduce the amount of Oil that it imports from OPEC.

  4. Some of the WWII and other War Documentaries that I've seen sometimes allude to the critical strategic importance of Fuel. An example would be the Battle of the Bulge during WWII wherein the Germans were hurt by a lack of sufficient fuel supply. Yet we have really failed to reduce our own dependence on our direct enemies for part of our fuel supply. This is a very clear military Achilles Heel...that we are partly dependent on our enemies for our fuel supplies not only for both the health of our economy and also for our powerful military to continue to carry out its operations (just how do we think tanks and warplanes are powered?) While it is true that fuel might be synthesized for our military by motivated engineers, I have not seen any evidence that we are in earnest about putting any such program into place. Such a program could not be enacted instantly nor is success even guaranteed. It might take years or decades to succeed.

  5. Part of our recent answer has been to rely on the Russians for a greater supply of oil while trying to reject the Saudis. This is not only understandable but it is arguably desireable. It would not be the first time they've been the world's largest Oil Producers. (The catch is that their oil is found in harsh conditions which tends to drive down production unless aggressively maintained by better methods recently given them by the West.) One might argue temporarily: let the Russians improve their economy so that they will not receed back to Totaltarianism. However, it is not anything close to a good permanent sustainable solution. The Russians do not have enough Oil and the U.S. does not have an infinite supply of money to send overseas to Saudi Arabia, Russia, Venezuela or all the other countries: This is the continuing impailment of the mighty American Economy on the alter of a catastrophic Trade Deficit. No nation in history has ever had such a sustained exportation of Wealth of Hundreds of Billions of 2002 Dollars per year, and lived to talk about it, that I'm aware. This has been going on for decades, I think perhaps particularly since President Reagan came into office. [And this is not even to mention the issue of Global Warming which, though we may resent it, seems to be somewhat of a real phenomenon pressuring us to look for Oil-Alternatives.]

Even if our military continues to win many excellent victories (how professional they have been!) and preclude many other attacks that we don't hear much about because of how good our military and intelligence has been, if our economy is particularly further damaged in this ongoing war, then the Terrorists have won a terrible victory. I keep recalling Tom Clancy's admonition inherent to a critical decision made by his hero Jack Ryan. As a Presidential Advisor Jack is asked to decide between first addressing a Military Crisis that can wait a little, or a Terrible Economic Crisis that needs quick action. To the surprise of onlookers Jack chooses to first address the Economic Crisis, even though he's a former Military Man, and emphasizes to the President that we must make an effort to not forget the terrible lessons of the Great Depression.... the awful awful poverty, the loss of life and life-spirit of so many people.

In the real world outside of such fictionalized heroes, we too must remember our roots: we must stop taking for-granted the magnificent bounty afforded all of us Americans of the 21st century by the Industrial Revolution and the folks who made it happen. We must stop cursing the Industry and Productivity which was our hallmark but that has slowly been escaping the country for the last few decades. Every day I pass by construction and buildings and industrious activity in a major city in the U.S. Such activity would be out-of-place and unusual and highly talked about in many Second-Rate OPEC countries. They would think it remarkable to put up a nice building here or there. We do it as though it is commonplace and to-be-expected. We are incredible... awesome... We praise the Romans for leaving behind roads that lasted and yet our legacy will dwarf anything any other civilization has ever done. And yet we are allowing primitives -- lovers of the way of hate -- to threaten our achievements not only by direct attack on our bodies and structures, or bioattack on our way of having our bodies work, but also by attack on our economic well-being. Let's talk about this, address this, move forward, make progress, improve our fight to win, war or not.

The "Opposing Forces" Article In Full:


Powerful opposing forces killed proposed Alaskan oil drilling and tighter fuel standards
Fri Apr 19, 1:52 PM ET
By H. JOSEF HEBERT, Associated Press Writer

WASHINGTON - The Senate is moving to wrap up an energy bill, but without two proposals that sparked the greatest political fireworks and may have had the most impact.

Audio/Video Daschle Vows to Defeat Arctic Drilling Plan (AP)

Drilling in Alaska's Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (news - web sites), which environmentalists made a symbol of their opposition to the Bush administration's policies, and slapping automakers with tough new fuel economy requirements were found to be politically too hot to accept.

In a showdown Thursday over the future of the refuge, drilling supporters could muster only 46 of the 60 votes needed to end a Democratic filibuster and allow a vote on putting the refuge provision into a broader energy bill.

The House already had approved drilling as part of its energy package and President Bush (news - web sites) had made it a centerpiece of his energy agenda. He was noncommittal when reporters asked him Friday if he would sign an energy bill without the ANWR drilling plan. "We'll see what happens," the president said.

"The Senate missed an opportunity to lead America to greater energy independence," White House spokesman Ari Fleischer (news - web sites) declared, echoing Alaska's two senators who described the refuge as a way to reduce U.S. reliance on dictators such as Iraq's Saddam Hussein (news - web sites) for its energy.

Still, eight Republicans abandoned Bush and joined with most Democrats in rejecting drilling in ANWR, as the refuge is called. "There are other, more feasible options for ... reducing national foreign oil dependence," said Sen. Lincoln Chafee (news, bio, voting record), R-R.I.

"Development would irreversibly damage this natural resource," argued Sen. Joe Lieberman (news - web sites), D-Conn., referring to the refuge's coastal plain where thousands of caribou visit and give birth to their young each summer, joined by millions of migratory birds, musk-oxen, polar bears and other wildlife.

While drilling advocates argue the oil could be developed while still protecting the wildlife, Sen. John Kerry (news, bio, voting record), D-Mass., maintained that the oil estimated as likely between 5.7 billion and 11.6 billion barrels still wasn't enough to make a serious dent in imports when it would start flowing south in eight to 10 years.

What would help, Kerry argued, would be a significant increase in the fuel efficiency of automobiles and sport utility vehicles, which guzzle 70 percent of the 19 million barrels of oil consumed each day in the United States.

But like the Arctic drilling, the auto fuel economy became a lightning rod in the energy debate. When Kerry pushed to boost federal fuel economy requirements by 50 percent, the auto industry and autoworkers said jobs would be lost and suburban soccer moms would no longer be able to buy SUVs. The proposal was killed last month on a 63-38 vote.

Many of the same senators who opposed the fuel economy increase raised alarms during the Arctic refuge debate over U.S. reliance on oil imports, said Kerry. "They had no interest in national security when we put before the Senate a plan that would have saved America 1 million barrels a day in 2015 and 2 million barrels a day by 2020."

The Senate likely will finish its energy legislation, covering more than 580 pages, sometime next week. Both Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle, D-S.D., and Republican leader Trent Lott of Mississippi want a bill, as does the White House.

While lacking either oil drilling in ANWR or significant auto fuel economy measures, the bill includes myriad items that are attractive to politically powerful energy industries.

Among them:

_A compromise on renewable fuels that would triple the use of ethanol, a boon to farmers.

_A phaseout of the water-fouling gas additive MTBE, welcomed by a number of states, including much of the Northeast.

_Elimination of an oxygen requirement for gasoline and a reduction in "boutique" gasoline blends, making it easier for refiners to meet air quality regulations.

_Government help for the nuclear industry to develop its next generation of power plants and continued limits on reactor accident liability.

_Loan guarantees to build an Alaska natural gas pipeline, a $20 billion project aimed at providing access to large gas reserves on the North Slope.

_Tax and other incentives for purchase of hybrid gas-electric vehicles, build more fuel efficient buildings and sell more efficient appliances.

Among the issues not yet resolved, and likely to come up early next week, are details of proposed tax breaks, totaling nearly $16 billion, for energy conservation, renewable fuels an energy development.

___

EDITOR'S NOTE H. Josef Hebert has covered energy and environmental issues for The Associated Press since 1991.