ANWR estimates go up thanks to Hussein
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The White House on Wednesday made an urgent pitch to open up the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to drilling, saying Saddam Hussein of Iraq was moving to cut off his supply of oil to the U.S.

At his daily press briefing, White House spokesman Ari Fleischer said the United States shouldn't "take any chances" by continuing to rely on foreign oil sources. Hussein's threat, issued to spur an Israeli pull-out of the West Bank, caused spikes in gas prices, according to Fleischer.

"As the American consumers know, they are increasingly paying . . . more money at the gas pump to fill up their car," said White House spokesman Ari Fleischer. "And Saddam Hussein has just said that he will cut off oil to the United States."

"The President knows that ANWR represents 46 years' worth of imports of oil from Saddam Hussein's Iraq," he added.

Bush administration officials and their allies in Congress have frequently brought up Hussein in their arguments to increase domestic production. Secretary of Interior Gale Norton, during an appearance on the cable network CNNfn, said on Tuesday that ANWR's potential oil represented a "significant" part of achieving energy independence.

ANWR, she said, "would provide about as much oil as we're currently getting from Saddam Hussein's Iraq."

Despite the White House warning, however, there is little likelihood that Americans will benefit from ANWR oil, however plentiful, any time soon. Even if the Senate approves drilling -- an unlikely prospect given the Democrat opposition -- on a 2,000-acre above ground "footprint" as the Bush administration desires, development won't occur quickly enough to replace Iraq's oil due to the department's timetables.

Off-shore drilling in the Beaufort Sea off ANWR's coastal plain, for example, was announced by Norton in July of last year. But leasing won't occur until 2003, according to department officials, who must first put out environmental assessments prior to opening up areas to the industry.

Meanwhile, drilling proponents have inflated ANWR's impact somewhat. According to estimates from the U.S. Geological Survey, the Interior's scientific arm, the refuge contains 10.4 billion barrels of oil.

Norton has characterized this as 40 years of imported Iraqi oil. Fleischer yesterday bumped up the amount to 46 years as he spoke of other rising figures.

"Why shouldn't the United States have an energy policy that is more independent?" he said. "This is an issue that the United States faces year after year after year. And the President believes that instead of lurching, herky-jerky, from one crisis to the next, year after year, that it's about time we had a comprehensive, long-term strategy so we don't, every spring going into summer, ask ourselves the same question: why is the price of gas going up?"

Related Documents:
Text: Press Briefing (4/10) | Audio: Press Briefing

Relevant Links:
Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, U.S. Fish and Willdife Service -
The Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, Pro-Development site -

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