Tuesday, December 13, 2005

It's Not Dead Yet

The Bush administration is still pushing to win approval for oil drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge despite widespread and bipartisan opposition to the project on Capitol Hill. On Monday, Gale Norton (Interior Secretary) and Elaine Chao (Labor Secretary) made the rounds of conservative organizations like the Heritage Foundation to pitch the project. They made the usual deceptive arguments in favor of the proposal. Chao spoke of the drilling creating a million jobs; Norton talked about how the oil reserve would supply a single state for a decade or two, without mentioning that in the context of the entire country, the amount is actually very small. Dana Milbank took a skeptical look at the proceedings here. His take:

But you wouldn't know that watching Norton. The administration's Ahab, she has been fighting for drilling in ANWR for five years, only to see the proposal shot down in Congress each time. This week, some House Republican moderates are fighting to keep it out of the budget bill. And Captain Norton has returned to the Pequod.

Heritage offered about as sympathetic an audience as Norton could hope for. Arriving in her Lincoln Town Car (17 mpg), she was greeted at the conservative think tank by Ginny Thomas, the Supreme Court justice's wife, and introduced by President Ed Feulner, who called ANWR "a win-win situation."

But even here, the questions were gently skeptical. One questioner pointed out the tepid support for ANWR from oil companies, "leading some on Wall Street to say this is more of a political issue than an energy economics issue." Another person pointed out that Norton's forecast of a million barrels a day from ANWR was "somewhat underwhelming."

The column is well worth reading. Milbank deflates most of the arguments in the proposal's favor.