When Senator Lieberman was the vice presidential candidate, he defended some of Al Gore's crackpot environmentalist theories by calling the issue a "Jewish mandate." For the record, since we have been criticized in the past for ridiculing some of the Reform Movements testimony on oil emissions, sound environmentalism is not a religious or political issue. It is a mandate for all concerned citizens. So are national security and energy independence.
The benefits of both are obvious, and the benefits of the latter should be especially so to friends of Israel, for energy independence would make the U.S. impervious to pressure and demands from the oil producing OPEC nations. However, radical as well as "mainstream" environmental groups continue their opposition to domestic oil exploration -- a future cornerstone of President Bush's policy -- and reject all compromise. A recent news photograph of former Energy Secretary Richardson begging Arab sheiks for a slower increase in oil barrel prices tells the tale. The recent hearings to confirm Gale Norton for the post of Interior Secretary reveal greater energy independence as a partisan issue, with Democratic opponents of her nomination censuring her convictions about the need to drill in the Alaska wilderness.
A welcome dissent comes from Senator John
B. Breaux, a Democrat, senior U.S. Senator from
Louisiana, and hardly a fire-breathing conservative. In an
article published in the Wall Street
Journal on January 18, 2000, he advocates an "aggressive and
environmentally sound policy to encourage domestic production," and sup-
ports drilling in the Arctic Refuge. He points out that in 1973, during the Arab oil embargo, we imported 36% of our oil supply. Today, 56% of the oil comes from abroad. Clearly, while our consumption has risen, domestic production has dropped, and we have become more dependent than ever.
In 1987, the Department of the Interior recommended the development of the Arctic Refuge and a poll disclosed that over 70% of Alaskans supported development. Studies show that new technology, controlled seasonal exploration, and many other precautions would ensure that there would be no adverse effects on the environment. Even the calving season of caribou would be respected. And, most important, it is strongly believed that production would replace Saudi Arabian oil for the next 30 years.
Senator Breaux describes environmentally sensitive and successful drilling on federal wildlife refuges in Louisiana, his home state. While these wetlands remain home to ducks, geese, shrimp, alligators, fish, and mammals, there have been few adverse consequences, and this drilling on 1,605 wells has been active for the past sixty years.
Friends of Israel and advocates of American strength should reconsider domestic oil exploration, even on wildlife refuges and national parks. While demanding strict environmental guidelines and regulations, they should drop the knee-jerk negative response. And those who require further convincing should visit formerly "sunny" California, where mindless regulations and opposition to all forms of domestic energy production (other than windmills) have brought about a serious energy crisis that threatens the entire state.
Ruth King is a member of the executive committee of Americans For a Safe Israel.
Americans For a Safe Israel
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Outpost - 12 - February 2001