Michael Barone, dissecting the politics of energy, uses ANWR as a case study. Public opinion that previously rewarded groups and politicians for blocking energy development there has shifted.
The ANWR ban is the work of environmental restriction groups that depend on direct-mail fundraising to pay their bills and keep their jobs. That means they must always claim the sky is falling. They can’t get people to send a check or mouse-click a donation because they did a good job, the restrictions they imposed on the Alaska pipeline in the 1970s have done a good job in preserving the environment or because clean air acts of the past have vastly reduced air pollution.
ANWR is a precious cause for them because it can be portrayed (dishonestly) as a national treasure and because the pressure for drilling there has been unrelenting. Democrats have enlisted solidly in their army, and they have also been able to recruit Republicans who wanted to get good environmental scorecards to impress enviro-conscious voters in states like Florida, New Jersey and Minnesota.
Now all that is in danger, because the pain of paying $60 for a tank of gas has convinced most Americans to worry less about the caribou or the recurrence of an oil spill that happened 39 years ago. Democratic leaders are preventing Congress from voting on continental shelf and ANWR drilling or oil shale development because they fear their side would lose and are making the transparently absurd claim that drilling won’t lower the price of oil. They’re scampering to say that they would allow drilling somewhere — mostly in places where the oil companies haven’t found any oil.
ANWR’s used as a fundraiser?
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