Senate blocks Alaska drilling

In a 52-48 vote, the Senate moved to bar oil drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR), March 19. Drilling in the ANWR was a key part of Vice President Dick Cheney’s energy policy.

Since it was originally proposed, the idea of drilling for oil in the habitat of many endangered species has drawn much criticism. The League of Conservation Voters has called it a “special-interest-driven gift” to the Bush administration’s oil corporation connections.

Last week’s vote was the Senate’s second rejection of ANWR drilling. Last year, those in favor of drilling failed to gain enough votes to overcome a Democratic filibuster. However, the House passed a resolution in favor of drilling last year.

“We have defeated similar proposals in the past, and I am pleased that as a bipartisan group we have stood firm in our resolve to protect the refuge,” said Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.), who indroduced the budget amendment. “Americans must continue to be vigilant because proponents of drilling in this Wildlife Refuge have vowed they will not give up.”

Many environmental groups share Boxer’s warning, saying that it’s very likely that supporters of ANWR drilling will continue pushing for new votes on the issue.

Drilling advocates used the international situation – the vote came hours before the U.S. began bombing Iraq – in an attempt to gain votes. Although they pointed to increasing gas prices and dependency on oil imports, the grassroots campaign against drilling prevailed.

“Americans are concerned about national security, but drilling in the Arctic will do nothing to alleviate these fears,” said Carl Pope, executive director of the Sierra Club. “Arctic drilling would not put a dent in our dependence on foreign oil, would do nothing to strengthen our national security, and would not save consumers a dime. We cannot drill our way to energy independence.”