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Wednesday, August 20, 2008

The Chambliss Shimmy

The US's next drilling site?Congratulations to the Gang of 10. No, not that "bipartisan" group of U.S. Senators who recently garnered headlines with their misguided energy "compromise." We refer instead to 10 GOP Senators who are proving good policy is good politics by pushing for more drilling in the Arctic.

Those 10 Republicans recently sent a letter asking President Bush to issue an executive order to conduct an immediate, state-of-the-art seismic survey of oil-and-gas resources in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. The signers include Senators Pete Domenici (N.M.), Jim Inhofe (Okla.), Kay Bailey Hutchison and John Cornyn (Tex.), John Warner (Va.), David Vitter (La.), Mel Martinez (Fla.), Thad Cochran (Miss.) and Ted Stevens and Lisa Murkowksi (Alaska).

That corner of Alaska hasn't been surveyed since 1983, and in the intervening 25 years the industry has developed far more advanced technology to scope oil-and-gas reserves. A new survey could show that the area boasts far more oil than today's estimate of 10.4 billion barrels, a discovery that would bolster public sentiment for drilling. *Despite the support and possible need of new oil resources, many do not believe this is our best option. The Arctic National Wildlife Refuge and many other parts of Alaska have vast natural resources and attract all sorts of animals and people. Many Americans vacation in Alaska, or go on an Alaska cruise, as an alternative to the typical vacation.
All this is better than the approach recently announced by the other "Gang of 10." Five Republicans -- Lindsey Graham (S.C.), John Thune (S.D.), Bob Corker (Tenn.) and Saxby Chambliss and Johnny Isakson (Ga.) -- agreed to join five Democrats and endorse $84 billion in energy subsidies plus higher taxes in exchange for allowing more drilling in a portion of the Eastern Gulf and offshore of only four states.

Senator Chambliss told Rush Limbaugh last week that the deal was necessary to get 60 votes to overcome a Democratic filibuster. But this is the mentality that has undercut sound GOP positions in the past. Democrats are on the defensive over their opposition to new oil-and-gas supplies, which means the GOP has a legitimate shot at finally forcing a sound national drilling policy. Mr. Chambliss's shimmy gives political cover to liberals who want new drilling kept to a minimum.

Current law prohibits any "exploration leading to development of ANWR," but that prohibition is aimed at exploratory drilling. Seismic testing involves the equivalent of 3D photography and is environmentally benign, so Mr. Bush is well in his rights to issue the order. It's time to get serious about drilling, and a new survey is a useful first step.

Wall Street Journal; August 16, 2008