Despite congressional opposition that earlier appeared to kill the chances for tapping energy resources in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR), President George W. Bush continues to push for arctic drilling as part of his national energy plan.
“That will be a part of the energy plan that is presented to the President, and nothing has changed,” stated White House spokesman Ari Fleischer.
Fleischer’s comments came on the heels of comments by EPA chief Christie Todd Whitman that congressional opposition had killed Bush’s plans to tap the ANWR energy reserves. “The President believes we can and we should, in an environmentally responsible way, open up a small portion of ANWR so we can explore for oil,” countered Fleischer.
Whether or not Bush’s resolve to tap into the ANWR oil and gas reserves generates congressional approval remains to be seen. Administration supporters note the refuge is approximately the size of South Carolina, while the drilling footprint would be no greater than the size of Washington’s Dulles airport. Nevertheless, even Bush’s Republican congressional allies have omitted any funding for ANWR drilling from their 2002 budget resolutions.
Supporters of the President’s plan are counting on public sentiment, and therefore congressional sentiment, to shift in their favor as the nation continues to feel the sting of a deepening energy shortage. Numerous polls have shown public opinion shifting in favor of new energy production and against alleged environmental concerns as the nation’s energy shortage intensifies.