Senate rebuffs move to allow Alaskan refuge drilling

21 December 2005 19:38  [Source: ICIS news]

A polar bear and her cubs at ANWR HOUSTON (ICIS news)--Congress on Wednesday rejected an attempt to open the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR) in northern Alaska to oil and gas exploration.

The Senate voted 56-44 not to end debate on a Department of Defense appropriations bill that would have allowed ANWR drilling. Republican leaders needed sixty votes to end the Democrat-led filibuster. Due to the vote, they were expected to drop ANWR from the bill.

Associations representing the US chemical industry, which uses natural gas as a feedstock and fuel, have supported energy production from ANWR, which is next to the giant Prudhoe Bay field.

The US Geological Survey has estimated that ANWR may hold 39-83trn cubic feet of gas and 6-13bn bbl of oil. The US uses about 22.3trn cubic feet/year, a total that the American Gas Association (AGA) has estimated could grow to 29trn by 2020.

The state of Alaska and oil companies are negotiating terms for the construction of a gas pipeline to move Prudhoe Bay’s 35trn cubic feet of gas to the Lower 48 states. That $20bn line also could be used to move ANWR gas to market.

Both chambers of Congress have approved ANWR drilling at separate times this year. In November the Senate allowed exploration as part of a budget bill. Key House Republicans forced the provision to be removed.

This month, at the urging of Senator Ted Stevens (Republican-Alaska), Senate and House negotiators added ANWR to the “must-pass” $453bn (Euro383bn) defence spending bill, which the House approved 308-106 on Monday.

The American Petroleum Institute lamented the Senate vote. “ANWR’s development, coupled with other American oil and natural gas supplies, greater energy efficiency, conservation and diversification, would have a far-reaching, positive impact on US consumers,” it said.

The Sierra Club said: “Americans want real energy solutions that protect special places like the arctic refuge.”

By: Patrick Crow
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