Doesn’t Arctic Drilling Belong in the Energy Bill?

Congress at long last cranked out an energy bill last month — one that took six years to make. But it leaves out way too much — such as measures sought by conservationists on global warming, renewable energy and fuel economy … and the issue of drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.

Excuse us?!

Let me be clear: drilling in the Arctic Refuge would be a huge mistake. But in any case, the place to debate the issue, if anywhere, is in the energy bill — so why drop that from there, where dealing with that question makes the most sense?

The answer’s easy: because the politicians never gave up on the idea, and found a clever way to ram it through. By sliding their Arctic drilling scheme into the budget reconciliation bill — usually meant to deal with spending cuts and revenue issues — drilling advocates are attempting to get around their inability to get their invasion of the Refuge approved through normal means.

Congress can’t filibuster a reconciliation bill. That creates a loophole large enough to drive a fleet of Exxon’s seismic vehicles through. Even our environmentally enlightened politicians have kept quiet about what’s really going on here: a blatant effort to avoid a full, fair and open debate about the fate of the wildest place left in America.

The facts are clear: this is a place that has been protected for nearly a half century, and a place that at best may meet two percent of U.S. oil demand — maybe — in 20 years. So if Congress wants to talk about drilling in the Refuge, it should at least put the debate back where it belongs — in the energy bill — and have an honest discussion about Arctic drilling and the energy choices we need to make as a country.