Friday, December 23, 2005

Deferred Again

The Congressional opponents of drilling for oil in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR) won another battle this week in their long war of attrition against the majority that thinks drilling should proceed. I don't have anything new to say on the underlying issue and continue to believe that time is running out on the opportunity to trade a concession on ANWR for major improvements in energy efficiency or a national cap on CO2 emissions. I'll confine my comments today to the process by which ANWR came up for its most recent vote.

The major objection seems to be that the provision to allow drilling was attached to a vital defense spending bill in a "procedural trick." But isn't defeating it by a minority threat of a Senate filibuster, rather than an up-or-down floor vote, just as much of a "trick"--at least from the perspective of an average citizen?

It's also fascinating that so many Senators took umbrage at linking ANWR to a defense bill, given the mileage that Democratic candidates have gotten connecting America's unconstrained appetite for energy to our global defense posture and expenditures. I've never entirely bought that argument, but I have to admit that with troops deployed in the heart of the Middle East, it is hardly a non-sequitur to talk about increasing domestic oil production in the same breath.

Where I agree wholeheartedly with some of the opponents is that ANWR is big enough and important enough to deserve a fair hearing on its merits--and I would add, shorn of all the posturing and pandering that has attended it over the years. Those who see ANWR merely as a gift to the oil companies have been drinking too much of their own Kool-Aid, and anyone who was high-fiving and crowing at this outcome ought to gain some sobriety contemplating his or her future remorse, should the result eventually go the other way with nothing to show for a two-decade holding action.

Well, I suppose that's an awfully cynical note to attach to my holiday greetings. Nevertheless, I'd like to wish all my readers a Merry Christmas or Happy Hanukkah, and a happy Boxing Day (which I've celebrated ever since my stint in the UK.) Postings will resume on 12/27.

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