Oil update: Alaska lobbies for ANWR drilling; oil prices decline

| 3/19/2003

Alaska Gov. Frank Murkowski signed an appropriations bill March 17 that earmarks $1.3 million of state funds to lobby for oil drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, Reuters reported.

The bill allocates $1.1 million to Arctic Power, an Anchorage-based nonprofit group that wants to open the northeastern Alaska wildlife refuge to oil drilling.

It gives $100,000 to a lobbying effort conducted by the governor's office and an additional $100,000 for lobbying by the Inupiat Eskimo village of Kaktovik, a community on the refuge's coastal plain that is largely in favor of development, the news agency reported.

Murkowski said state funding for the effort, which the Legislature grants each year, is crucial now that Senate Republican leaders are seeking to attach a pro-drilling provision to a budget bill and could avoid a Democratic-led filibuster.

"It is critical, given the opportunity we now have in Congress to get ANWR open, to have the funding we will need to make it happen," Murkowski said in a news release. He is a former U.S. senator who spent much of his career advocating for oil drilling in the refuge.

Oil prices slide

Meanwhile, world oil prices fell March 18 as the United States moved closer to war with Iraq, removing uncertainty that had driven up costs and causing market speculation.

In London, international benchmark crude oil slid by as much as $3.08 (U.S.) a barrel, or about 10 percent, to a three-month low of $26.40. By the early afternoon, prices had edged back up to $27.45, according to wire service reports.

U.S. crude futures fell $3.26 or 9.3 per cent to $31.67 per barrel. A day earlier, crude oil fell to a five-week low on speculation that a U.S. war against Iraq will start soon and end quickly, with limited disruption to Persian Gulf oil shipments.