What I Learned In The Arctic Circle


I really thought I would come back from the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge with some pretty good pictures of, well, wildlife. To hear the environmentalists talk about it, ANWR is a pristine landscape filled with mountains, trees, and creatures huddled together for safety on their tiny tiny refuge. Imagine how stunned I was to discover, upon landing, that I was in a very different place. “Surface of the moon” comes to mind.

What I found was a vast coastal flat almost the size of my home state of Tennessee. This refuge was taken from the local population by the Federal Government in the 60s. At the time, residents were promised a 2,000 acre plot they could develop for energy purposes. Those 2,000 acres- 10% of the size of a suburb of Nashville – are the issue at hand.

We are talking about an area with so much potential energy that residents actually cut out slabs of oil rich sand for use in heating their homes. I suppose they could cut down trees if they wanted to, but the nearest forest is 100 miles away.

Bottom line: the environmentalists concocted a misinformation campaign about this landscape and perpetuated a fundamentally unfair policy. It is unfair to the people who live in Northern Alaska and it is unfair to an American economy in desperate need of energy solutions.

What the government has done is seize a vast tract of land in exchange for a small plot for energy development. Then, with the help of environmentalists, they bound that small plot up in so many regulations and litigation threats that exploitation there is nearly impossible.

Drilling in ANWR would mean as many as 750,000 new jobs for the region. Jobs that could, and will, go to other oil producing countries like Russia, Venezuela, and Saudi Arabia if American policy does not change. In light of their rhetoric about exporting good jobs, I find Democrat intractability on ANWR to be the height of hypocrisy. They will criticize American corporations for exporting jobs to other free markets while they blithely perpetuate a policy that drives hundreds of thousands of jobs to hostile countries.

It is a policy that is hurting Americans when they can afford it least. The Democrat imposed restrictions on energy have already had an effect on the price at the pump. It is an effect each of us knows all too well.

In my home state, these policies created another real and dramatic price increase for Tennessee families. This week, the Tennessee Valley Authority, an agency designed to provide affordable power, announced that natural gas and coal prices are forcing it to raise rates by 20%. This is a country rich in both resources. That TVA is finding energy resources hard to come by is further indication that Democrat energy policy is misguided.

This country desperately needs an “all of the above” energy solution. It has to include exploitation of all of our resources; including drilling in ANWR. It must encompass clean coal and natural gas investments. It must reward conservation and efficiency where it can be achieved. My colleagues and I have put forward reasonable legislation that will achieve all of these goals. We are ready to vote today, all we need is for Speaker Pelosi to bring her colleagues back to town.