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Bush To Use Iraq War To Push Through Energy Policy

Bush To Use Iraq War To Push Through Energy Policy, Drilling In ANWR

By Jason Leopold

President Bush may try and use a possible war with Iraq to get Senate Republicans to push through his controversial energy plan, which calls for drilling in the environmentally sensitive Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, saying the country must begin to tap into its own resources to avoid potential shortages and dependence on foreign oil, according to several GOP sources who have recently met with the President on the issue.

But some key Democratic lawmakers, including Senator Joseph Lieberman, D-Connecticut, and Senator Tom Daschle, D-South Dakota, said Thursday they will resist any attempt by Senate Republicans to open the ANWR for drilling and would seek to have the energy plan rewritten because executives in the energy industry played a role in helping draft the policy that would largely benefit energy corporations.

Still, GOP sources said they would deal with resistance by their Democratic counterparts to drilling in Northeastern Alaska by using a “filibuster-proof” legislative manoeuvre that would prevent Democrats from blocking passage of the energy policy with less than 50 votes. An aide to Senate Committee Chairman Pete Domenici, R-New Mexico, said getting the President’s energy policy approved is the first item on the agenda if the United States engages in war with Iraq.

“We’ll take up the issue almost immediately,” the aide said. “We’ve already heard warnings about oil shortages because of the strike in Venezuela and it would only get worse in the event of a war with Iraq. Now is the time to map out our energy independence.”

Domenici, the new chairman of the senate’s Energy and Natural Resources Committee, will work with Senator Don Nickles, R-Oklahoma, on attempts to push through the energy policy using the “filibuster-proof” legislative tactic, the aide said. Neither Nickles nor a spokesman for the Senator returned calls for comment.

Last year, Senate Democrats overwhelmingly defeated the issue of drilling in ANWR. But now, with a new Republican controlled Senate, the issue has become one of the top priorities of the year for the GOP, said Senator Rick Santorum, R-Pennsylvania, who claims that “at least 50 senators support drilling.”

Domenici said he would include a provision for drilling in ANWR in the annual budget resolution, which is enforceable by law, and adopt some spending goals, which is not subject to filibuster. The GOP would need 51 votes to pass the measure. That move is somewhat controversial since budget bills are not supposed to be used to pass policy issues.

“This is a backdoor ploy, a gimmick,” said Dan Gerstein, a spokesman for Lieberman. “We will do everything in our power to keep drilling (in ANWR) out of the budget.”

Environmentalists, who say drilling will hurt oxen, polar bears, the caribou population and other wildlife, will no doubt play an important role in the process. So far, however, environmental groups have not discussed what their strategy will be to try and kill the measure. President Bush said his plan would preserve wildlife and environmentally sensitive land near ANWR.

There is as much as 10 billion barrels of oil in more than 1 million acres surrounding ANWR. The United States uses about 20 million barrels of oil per day, and relies heavily on imports from the Middle East, Canada, Venezeula and Mexico.


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