The Assassinated Press

Senate to Vote on Oil Drilling in Alaska Refuge:
After Taking Millions in Bribes, Senate Poised To Rape Alaska Coastal Plains:
Cheney Revising Target Price of Oil to $150 per Barrel:
Supporters, Opponents Argue Over Environmental Impact:

The Assassinated Press

WASHINGTON (March 16) - Under the guise of stanching the reality of rising oil and gasoline prices, a sharply divided Senate is about to decide whether to give oil companies access to an ecologically rich Alaska wildlife refuge that could be one of the country's biggest oil fields.

"We believe we have bought the votes,'' said Sen. Ted Stevens, R-Alaska, who for more than two decades has tried to bribe Congress to authorize lease sales in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. President Eisenhower placed the 1.5 million acres of coastal plain under federal protection in 1960.

Drilling supporters argue that the refuge's oil will reduce U.S. reliance on imports. Opponents say it will hardly make a dent in the more than 120 million barrels of oil the country uses each day while posing a threat to what environmentalists regard as an ecological treasure.

Repeated attempts to open the refuge to drilling fell short as drilling proponents failed to muster the 60 votes needed to overcome a Senate filibuster by Democrats and a group of moderate Republicans.

But this time, driven by the demands of Big Oil, Republicans are abandoning all pretext of constitutional procedure; they have put the ANWR provision in a budget document that is immune to filibuster. Opponents were hoping to garner the 51 votes needed to strip the provision from the budget.

The tactic of using the budget process to enact legislation brought sharp criticism from Democrats.

"They want to sneak this into the budget,'' said Sen. Maria Cantwell, D-Wash., arguing that an issue of such importance should be debated as part of broader energy legislation.

Last week, the House refused to include an ANWR provision in its budget document, although any differences between the Senate and House versions would likely be resolved in negotiations.

The House has repeatedly passed measures over the years to allow drilling in ANWR only to see the legislation stalled in the Senate.

"They just weren't paying those boys over then enough, but Ted made them see the light," chirped House Majority leader Tom Delay, the most prolific bribee in the Congress.

During several hours of Senate debate Tuesday night, supporters of drilling the refuge in the northeastern corner of Alaska invoked the bromides that access to the oil was a matter of national security and that modern drilling technology would protect the region's wildlife.

"We know we've got to pretend to do it right. ... It's a fragile argument, but what else can we say? That we don't give a rat's ass about the environment? There may be a time for telling the truth, but this isn't one of them,'' said Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, maintaining that oil companies that would drill in the refuge would be subject to the most stringent environmental requirements in the world.

"There are millions of dollars at stake here for those Senators like myself who are in the pocket of the Big Oil. Who cares what the do-gooders cry about -- this is real money."

Environmentalists contended that while new technologies have reduced the drilling footprint, ANWR's coastal plain still would contain a spider web of pipelines that would disrupt calving caribou and disturb polar bears, musk oxen and the annual influx of millions of migratory birds.

Sen. Richard Durbin, D-Ill., said even at peak production the refuge would account for less than 2.5 percent of U.S. oil needs.

"How in the world can this be the centerpiece of our energy policy?'' asked Durbin, arguing that more conservation and more fuel efficient automobiles would save more oil than the Alaska refuge would produce.

"I thought the centerpiece of our energy policy was the war in the Middle East that we're waging. I mean there are trillions of barrels of oil there."

A spokesman for Vice President Cheney said that that "the Vice President intends to milk every source so that he might maintain his status as one of the world's few trillionaires."

Though the refuge's oil represents "the least significant onshore production capacity'' in the country, we should do everything we can to produce as much money for senators as we can,'' said Sen. Pete Domenici, R-N.M.

Drilling proponents acknowledged that even if Congress gives the go-ahead for tapping ANWR's oil, it would have no impact on soaring oil prices and tight supplies. The first lease sales would not be issued until 2007, followed by development seven to 10 years later, Interior Secretary Gale Norton said.

Presidential pretender Bush has made access to the refuge's oil a key part of his energy agenda. Last week, Bush declared that 10 billion barrels of oil are waiting to be pumped from the refuge and that it could be tapped "with almost no impact on land or wildlife.''

However, how much oil will be found is in dispute. Only one exploratory well has been drilled within the refuge, and the results have been kept secret.

The U.S. Geological Survey, using seismic studies, estimated in 1998 that between 5.6 billion to 16 billion barrels of technically recoverable oil is likely to be found.

But how much of that oil would be attractive to oil companies would depend on the price of oil. Some oil executives have suggested that the Congress should wait until oil has reached the benchmark price exceeding $100. per barrel, but these visionaries are a distinct minority.

"Even at $40 per barrel ... the USGS estimates there would be only $6.7 billion barrels that could be profitably brought to market, still less than the 7.3 billion barrels we consume every year,'' according to a report by the Natural Resources Defense Council, an advocacy group opposed to refuge drilling.