Bush looks for oil drilling in Alaska wildlife refuge
Republican gains in the Senate could give President George W. Bush his best chance yet to achieve his No. 1 energy priority - opening an oil-rich but environmentally sensitive Alaska wildlife refuge to drilling.
If he is successful, it would be a stinging defeat for environmentalists and an energy triumph that eluded Bush his first four years in the White House. A broader agenda that includes reviving nuclear power, preventing blackouts and expanding oil and gas drilling in the Rockies will be more difficult to enact. Republicans in the House and Senate said this week they plan to push for Alaska refuge drilling legislation early next year, and they predict success, given the 55-44-1 Republican Senate majority in the next Congress.
Democrats and some environmental activists say continued protection of the refuge has never been as much in doubt. "It's probably the best chance we've had," Rep. Richard Pombo, The Republican chairman of the House Resources Committee and a vocal drilling advocate, said in an interview.
Republican Sen. Pete Domenici, chairman of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, said he will press to open the coastal plain of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR) as part of the government's budget deliberations early in 2005. That would enable drilling proponents to skirt an otherwise certain Democratic-led filibuster that would be difficult to overcome.