Lawmakers continue to
dispute energy legislation about the usefulness of oil drilling in an Arctic
wildlife refuge as the White House is linking the debate to national security
and the September terrorist attacks.
The dispute has some
Democrats in Congress and environmentalists accusing the Bush administration
and Republicans of exploiting terrorist fears to allow drilling in an area
where oil won't actually be pumped for a decade, according to published reports.
President Bush has said
that developing more energy supplies at home is in the nation's best interest,
stressing the country's heavy reliance on foreign oil. He has demanded that
the Senate take up energy legislation and get a bill to his desk as soon as
The House already has
approved energy legislation, including drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife
Refuge. But, in the Senate, an energy bill that months ago was viewed as a
priority has been placed on the back burner, eclipsed by the response of the
Sept. 11 attacks and a slumping economy.
Republicans believe the
Alaska refuge's millions of barrels of oil can be drilled without endangering
the environment. Key Democrats, however, have promised environmentalists they
will protect the refuge from drilling, which includes blocking possible legislation.
The government estimates
that at least 5.7 billion barrels - and possibly as many as 16 billion barrels
- may be recoverable from the refuge, according to published reports. Environmentalists
argue that the refuge has no more than 3.2 billion barrels, not enough to
dramatically ease the nation's reliance on imports.