Resorting to the sleazy tactic of burying the measure in a budget package to head off a Democratic fillibuster, Senate Republicans passed a major hurdle in opening the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR) to oil exploitation. By a single vote, the Senate defeated a Democrat-backed measure that would have prevented a vote on ANWR as part of a budget resolution March 17. If the House similarly agrees to this subterfuge, western North America’s last great caribou herd faces twilight. (Indian Country Today, March 18)
Increasingly invisible in news accounts that focus on energy insecurity and Middle East oil jitters, the 130,000-strong Porcupine caribou herd—which annually carries out the largest land migration of any animal on earth, ranging as far as Canada’s Northwest Territories—depends on the ANWR for calving each June. The calving grounds are on the ANWR’s coastal plain—precisely the area where Bush and his corporate pals want to drill. (Sierra Club Activist News, Canada, Spring 2003)
In a probable scare tactic, the oil industry itself has recently been making reluctant noises about drilling in ANWR, as if tired of the interminable wait to open the refuge. (Both houses approved opening ANWR to drilling in 1996, only to see President Clinton veto it.) Most recently, BP, ConocoPhillips and ChevronTexaco have withdrawn from Arctic Power, the business coalition formed to lobby for drilling in ANWR. Among big oil companies, only ExxonMobil remains.
Queried by the Seattle Post-Intelligencer after the Senate vote, ExxonMobil did not have a direct comment on its plans, but a spokesman referred to an earlier statement in which the company said, "ExxonMobil supports environmentally responsible development within the Coastal Plain of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge."
The petro-oligarchs sure are hedging their bets in Congress, however. Notes a report on the Senate vote in the Capital Eye, newsletter of the DC-based Center for Responsive Politics:
The oil and gas industry has contributed $179.7 million since 1989 to federal
candidates and political parties, 74 percent to Republicans.
Two oil companies, ChevronTexaco and Exxon Mobil, rank among the top all-time
campaign contributors. ChevronTexaco has contributed $8.9 million since
1989 in individual, PAC and soft money donations, 75 percent to
Republicans. The company, the second largest oil producer in the
country, has spent more than $38 million since 1997 to lobby Congress
and the federal government. Exxon Mobil, one of the world’s largest oil
producers, has contributed $8.2 million since 1989 in individual, PAC
and soft money donations, 87 percent to Republicans. The company has
spent more than $62 million on lobbying since 1997.
Meanwhile, for all the cynical exploitation of Mideast war fears to justify shafting the caribou (the ever-predictable NY Post: "DRILL WE MUST," March 20 editorial), hardly anyone is even mentioning that at current rates of consumption, all the oil in the ANWR—a maximum 5.2 billion barrels—wouldn’t get the US through six months. (See WW4 REPORT #104)