The Washington Post reports that a closely divided Senate yesterday voted in favor of opening Alaska's Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to oil drilling, bringing a long-sought goal of the Bush administration within striking distance of being realized.
The action marks the first time the Senate has signaled its support for drilling in the ecologically sensitive area since President Bush took office. And while hurdles remain, drilling advocates said they are close to achieving their decades-long drive to tap billions of barrels of oil beneath the 1.5 million-acre coastal plain.
Drilling proponents said tapping the refuge would lessen dependence on foreign oil, help bring down energy prices, provide jobs and ease the country's growing trade imbalance. They also argued that modern technology would limit the area needed to drill in the arctic. But opponents disagreed, saying that drilling would do little to reduce dependence on foreign oil and that there would be virtually no impact on prices, which are set as a result of activity on the world market. Using posters showing panoramic views of pristine wilderness, opponents also said that pipelines and drilling platforms would harm calving caribou, polar bears and millions of migratory birds in the Alaskan refuge.