Sunday, March 27, 2005

ANWR

The debate to open the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge in Alaska for oil seems to be raging heavily in D.C., and it seems safe to say that the reigning opinion, or at least the most vocal side, would be the environmental lobby, seeking to keep it closed. In the house and senate, the debate is pretty heated.

In Alaska, though, there isn't really any opposition. Almost every politician (Jim Sykes aside) runs on a platform to work to open ANWR, republicrats and demolicans alike all agree, in Alaska at least, that it needs to be open. The answer why is simple; Alaska's oil reserves are dwindling, the economy is slowly fading, and oil production is Alaska's #1 source of economic stability. I don't know the exact statistic, but I believe I heard that oil production is responsible for about 80% of Alaska's economy, whereas tourism, the second largest industry there, accounts for about 7%. Alaska needs ANWR open, particularly if it wants to keep such perks as no sales tax, no income tax, and an annual permanent fund dividend.

D.C. doesn't really seem to care that much about Alaska, in fact, the only reason that Alaska gets any attention in the senate is due to Ted "Pork-Barrel" Stevens, president pro-tem and former senate appropriations committee chair. The environmentalist lobby has a huge say if not in the senate than at least in the media and outside the government, and this sway, if nothing else, is souring the public against opening ANWR.

As an Alaskan resident who receives a permanent fund, although I don't live there 9 months out of the year, I certainly want Alaska's economy to prosper as much as possible. Most Alaskans, especially those in the oil industry, will go on and on about how little they effect the environment they touch and how they make very little impact on the wildlife, and I'm apt to believe them. People get fired for flashing their headlights to get birds to move when driving up on the North Slope, and they make every possible accommodation for wildlife, plantlife, and maintaining the ecological balance.

Stepping back, it is important to note that the whole situation could be avoided altogether if the government didn't own wildlife refuges. There wouldn't be any senate debate, no political wrangling, no arguments and debates, just rational self-interested people choosing the buy and protect the land they wish to buy and protect. The environmentalists could buy and protect a wildlife refuge, while the oil magnates could buy oil fields. Everyone wins.

Of course I recognize that there are some problems, like pollution of the air and water, but these problems could be worked out with minimal government legislation and a maximum of personal liberties and freedoms. When the government ceases to be some all-powerful, land controlling entity, the citizens gain back some of their rightful power.

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