US War Mongers Eye Up Alaska
George W Bush has made no secret of his desire to bypass Alaska's Wilderness Protection Status and prize it open for the oil companies. Jason Leopold reports from the US on how a War With Iraq is now being used as his excuse to make it so.
11th March 2003
In the coming weeks, the United States' Senate will attempt to make a compelling argument for opening up the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to drilling. It turns out that tapping into ANWRs resources would produce an immediate 600,000 barrels per day of oil, exactly the same amount that the US currently purchases from Iraq under the United Nations' oil for food program.
The UN Security Council set up the oil-for-food program in August 1990 after Iraq invaded Kuwait and the UN imposed comprehensive sanctions on the country. The program was aimed at removing some of the hardships placed on Iraqi civilians as a result of the sanctions. Since then, the U.S. has resented the fact that it has had to purchase Iraqi oil, which is crucial to our country's overall supply, when Bush Administration officials claim Saddam Hussein uses the money to fund his military rather than to reduce the suffering of innocent Iraqis affected by the sanctions.
If the US does invade Iraq, which at this point seems inevitable, the Bush Administration is concerned that shortages will persist in the US forcing oil prices to skyrocket to unprecedented levels and putting further strain on the America's troubled economy. Oil prices in the past few weeks have come within a hair of $40 per barrel and analysts say that prices could reach as high as $70 if the US goes to war with Iraq.
There is as much as ten billion barrels of oil in more than one million acres surrounding ANWR, and George W Bush and the other big oil men in his administration have been attempting to dismantle Alaska's Wilderness Protection stipulation and begin drilling.The US uses about 20 million barrels of oil per day, and relies heavily on imports from the Middle East, Canada, Venezeula and Mexico. Environmentalists, who argue that drilling will hurt oxen, polar bears, the caribou population and other wildlife, will no doubt play an important role in the process.
At this point, according to key Republican lawmakers, it's unclear whether the US would be able to continue to import Iraqi oil if a war breaks out largely because there is concern among Bush Administration officials that Saddam Hussein may set fire to oil wells in the country. Moreover, these lawmakers say it's unlikely other Oil Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) would increase output to help the US because they don't back the US in a war against Iraq.
Since the United Nations embargo on Iraqi oil in August 1990, some five million barrels per day of oil has been removed from the market. Other OPEC countries increased their production capacity to make up the shortfall but they have already said they will not increase output in the event of a war.
So the lawmakers plan to argue that a decrease in oil imports is a national security issue and that ANWR should be opened up to drilling immediately, according to several Republican lawmakers in Washington who spoke to SQUALL off the record.
But much in the way the Bush Administration has tried to link the 9-11 terrorist attacks to Iraq, which so far have been unproven, as a way to justify a war the same is being done in the case of drilling in ANWR. However, Bush made it clear before he took office that tapping into ANWR was a priority for his administration because the U.S. is at the mercy of foreign governments and cartels when it comes to our oil needs. A month before the 2000 presidential election, Bush gave a speech in Michigan and said, oil consumption is increasing, our production is dropping and our imports of foreign oil is skyrocketing. According to the book The Right Man, written by Bush's former speechwriter David Frum, the US president told an assembly in Michigan: "oil consumption is increasing, our production is dropping and our imports of foregn oil is skyrocketing". It's not that we should use less energy but that we should import less. This has become a national security issue."
It's not that we should use less energy but that we should import less. This has become a national security issue."
Key Democratic lawmakers, including Senator Joseph Lieberman, D-Connecticut, and Senator Tom Daschle, D-South Dakota, said last week they will resist any attempt by Senate Republicans to open the ANWR for drilling.
Republicans intend to deal with political resistance to any drilling in Northeastern Alaska from their Democratic counterparts by using a filibuster-proof legislative manoeuvre which would prevent Democrats from blocking passage of the energy policy with less than 50 votes. An aide to Senate Committee Chairman Pete Domenici, R-New Mexico, said getting the President's energy policy approved is the first item on the Senate agenda if the US engages in war with Iraq.