The U.S. Senate voted March 16 to
allow drilling for oil in Alaska’s Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.
Wording to allow the drilling was
contained in Senate
Concurrent Resolution 18, which is the annual appropriations
resolution for the fiscal year 2006 budget. The Senate voted March 16 on an
amendment that would have removed that wording, stopping the drilling from
The upper chamber of Congress voted 51-49 against the
amendment – and for drilling – at 1:45 p.m.
EST, according to the Senate Web site. While some senators crossed party
lines, the majority voting to allow drilling were Republicans; most voting to
stop drilling were Democrats.
The amendment was initially
offered by Sen. Maria Cantwell, D-WA.
“Drilling in the Arctic is not the right answer to national
security problems. Drilling for oil on protected lands is the wrong approach at
the wrong time,” said Cantwell, a member of the Senate’s Energy Committee, in a
prepared statement before the vote.
However, supporters of drilling pointed to fuel prices, both
diesel and gasoline, which are hovering at near-record levels.
“Oil just hit 56
bucks a barrel, and we’re 58 percent reliant on foreign oil,” Sen. Lisa
Murkowski, R-AK, told Bloomberg news. “It’s enough oil to save America from
writing a $54 million check to OPEC every day at our current prices.”
Sen. Pete V. Domenici, chairman of the Senate Energy and
Natural Resources Committee, agreed, telling The Boston Globe, “instead
of begging OPEC to drop its oil prices, let's use American leadership and
ingenuity to solve our own energy problems.”
administration has long supported drilling in the refuge – commonly referred to
by its abbreviation, ANWR – as a way to reduce U.S. dependence on foreign oil.
“I am concerned about the price of energy. I’m concerned
about what it means to the average American family when they see the price of
gasoline going up. I’m concerned what it means to small businesses,” President
Bush said during a news conference March 16. “I hope Congress passes ANWR.
There’s a way to get some additional reserves here at home on the books.”
As the Senate voted, the price of crude oil was surging to
sky-high levels, finally closing at $56.46 a barrel on the New York Mercantile
Exchange, and diesel in most parts of the country remained above $2 a gallon.
The measure to allow drilling in the refuge must still be
passed by the House before it becomes law.