Press Releases

Mr. President, I would like to speak about today's vote to end debate on the two pending amendments to authorize oil and gas development in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.

In past years, I've voted in support of exploring development options in ANWR as part of budget reconciliation measures. I believed that was the right vote. I was not an expert on the issue and I believed that further deliberation was warranted.

Unfortunately, the information presented to us consistently reveals widely varying predictions of actual oil potential and economic benefits, as well as various scenarios of possible impacts on wildlife and the environment. Even government studies are not conclusive and raise more questions than they answer. The various interpretations have already been debated by each side, and I need not rehash them now.

However, several factors are clear to me:

Oil and gas could be recovered from ANWR many years from now, but not without considerable costs to taxpayers.

Most scientific analyses conclude that both the land and wildlife would adversely be impacted by development.

The two Alaska Native communities most impacted by this debate are split in their positions on this issue.

Even if ANWR were authorized for development, we would still rely on imported oil supplies and require other sources of energy development and generation.

Mr. President, I too am concerned about our nation's dependence on foreign oil supplies. Unless we act in some comprehensive manner on several fronts, including conservation measures and greater use of nuclear and other forms of alternative energy generation, our current dependence on foreign oil could increase from 56 percent to 70 percent in less than twenty years.

With respect to taking truly effective action to reduce our oil dependence, regrettably the Senate rejected a more effective measure to modestly increase fuel efficiency standards, a proposal that would substantially decrease our nation's dependence on foreign oil and also reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Had we adopted an increase of fuel efficiency standards to 36 mpg average by 2015, we could have potentially saved 2.5 million barrels of oil per day by 2020 which is about equal to present imports from the Persian Gulf. This prudent conservation measure would also save twice as much, if not more, oil than what is in ANWR.

Opening the refuge could only meet about 2 to 5 percent of the nation's oil needs, at best. Even some oil company executives have expressed doubts about drilling in ANWR, as stated by one: "Big oil companies go where there are substantial fields and where they can produce oil economically...does ANWR have that? Who knows?"

And, let me also say that the answer to threats posed by the regime of Saddam Hussein is not to drill in ANWR but to end his regime sooner rather than later. Drilling in ANWR will not remove the clear and present danger posed by Hussein and will not stop in any way whatsoever his weapons of mass destruction program or for that matter his "inspiring and financing a culture of political murder and suicide bombing,"as Defense Secretary Rumsfeld so aptly described his lawless and murderous behavior.

I also wish to comment briefly about the second degree amendment offered to the underlying ANWR amendment to divert a majority of revenues derived from oil and gas development to retirement and other benefits for the steel industry.

Mr. President, I'm not against our steel workers. They helped build our nation and are among the hardest working people in America. But to underwrite their retirement in a transparent effort to attract more votes is very bad policy. What do we say to all the other workers who are also suffering during economic hard times? Are we going to say, "sorry, but giving royalties to folks in your industry won't get us the votes we need to pass our bill"?

Mr. President, miners, teachers, construction laborers, and many other hard-working Americans have seen their jobs, benefits, and pensions endangered by the recent hard economic times. Yet, they would not benefit from this proposal. Nor would our veterans, who undoubtably could use more help paying for their medical bills. These last-minute tactics are not a credit to this deliberative body and only serve to increase the public's skepticism of government.

Mr. President, America will need oil for the foreseeable future. What gives this generation the right to deplete this vital resource when we have the opportunity to preserve it for the benefit of future generations? At the end of our day, we still have prudent alternatives to ANWR to meet our energy demands and we should aggressively pursue them. A more acute energy need than our own in the future may require development, where assurances of improved technology may better protect the environment. With other viable energy options available to us today, to approve ANWR drilling would be a dereliction of our duty to posterity.

Teddy Roosevelt, the champion of conservation, once said: "Conservation means development as much as it does protection. I recognize the right and duty of this generation to develop and use the natural resources of our land; but I do not recognize the right to waste them, or rob, by wasteful use, the generations that come after us."

Mr. President, I have thought long and hard about this debate and the vote that I will cast. I still hope we can achieve a more balanced national energy strategy, but I am not convinced that a key component of that policy should be to drill in ANWR. I will vote against the motions to invoke cloture on these amendments.