Bush pushes hemispheric development
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MARCH 30, 2001

Acknowledging his administration might not succeed in opening up the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR) to oil and gas exploration, President George W. Bush on Thursday said nothing would stop him from seeking development of lands in America and beyond.

In a quickly convened press conference, Bush yesterday said the nation is "now in an energy crisis," which has forced him to break his campaign promise of reducing carbon dioxide emissions and to retreat from a global warming treaty the United States has already signed. But the one pledge he said he won't back down from is developing a comprehensive energy policy whose most controversial aspect is the development of America's shared public resources.

"I think it's important for us to open up ANWR. Whether or not the Congress sees it that way is another matter," said Bush. "That's not going to deter me from having, for example, the Interior Secretary look at all lands that are not -- not to be fully protected, for exploration."

"There's a lot of other areas we can explore," he said, noting that Canada and Mexico present viable alternatives to domestic development.

Yet as Bush has admitted, considerable opposition exists among the members of Congress who have to approve a number of his proposals. Previous attempts to open up ANWR to exploration have failed, although Senator Frank Murkowski (R-Alaska), Chairman of the Energy and Natural Resources Committee, has introduced a new bill to do just that.

At the same time, Bush recognizes that other public lands can be developed without Congressional approval. Along these lines, Secretary of Interior Gale Norton on Wednesday asked state, local, and tribal leaders to suggest possible changes to 19 national monuments that would open them up to oil and gas development, mining, and other uses.

But of the three million acres the recently declared monuments encompass, only a small portion could end up seeing development. So far, the US Geological Survey, at the request of Republican lawmakers, has identified five monuments with the potential for oil and gas development: Hanford Reach in Washington, Canyons of the Ancients in Colorado, the Upper Missouri River Breaks in Montana, the Coastal and Carrizon Plain monuments in California.

Still, Norton has in her grasp millions of acres of land with which to fulfill Bush's goals. Already, she has targeted the Overthrust Belt, a vast area covering public lands in Montana, Wyoming, and Idaho, for development.

And although offshore drilling off the coast of Florida is currently prohibited, the Department of Interior is considering a nearby area in the Gulf of Mexico for development. J. Steven Griles, Norton's still unconfirmed second-in-command, has supported offshore drilling in Florida and California, where development is currently banned.

Even so, Bush says he can look elsewhere to fulfill the rising demand for energy. "There's a lot of other areas we can explore," he said, "and one of them is to work with the Canadians."

"There's gas in our hemisphere," he continued. "And the fundamental question is, where's it going to come from? I'd like it to be American gas. But if the Congress decides not to have for exploration in ANWR, we'll work with the Canadians."

A proponent of alternative energy, however, disagrees with Bush's approach. Senator Harry Reid (D-Nev.), the ranking member on the Environment and Public Works Committee and a member of the Indian Affairs Committee, yesterday said looking elsewhere won't solve the nation's problems.

"The administration is now looking to Canada in place of ANWR as a source of gas and oil. That will only increase our reliance on foreign energy," said Reid. "Instead, we should look to our own home-grown energy sources including the sun, wind, geothermal and other clean and reliable energy alternatives."

Bush added he has talked with President Vicente Fox of Mexico about the issue as well. During a recent visit to California, Fox said he would work with the United States to develop an energy plan under under the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA).

"We will make decisions based on the interests of Mexico and Mexicans, but at the same time we are open to looking at common paths," said Fox last week.

Relevant Links:
Oil Issues in ANWR, US Fish and Wildlife -
The Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, US Fish and Wildlife Service -
The Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, Pro-Development site -

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