U.S. Rep. Bob Latta (R., Bowling Green), who leaves tomorrow on a trip to Alaska to promote oil drilling on federal park lands, again yesterday called for a comprehensive energy strategy that would allow more use of oil, coal, and nuclear power.
Mr. Latta, a freshman congressman, said other countries, notably China and India, rapidly are building coal and nuclear plants while the United States is failing to make use of its coal resources and has not built a new nuclear power plant since 1996.
"The No. 1 issue is energy. If we don't have energy this country is going to fall further and further behind in the world," he said.
Tomorrow he joins a fact-finding trip from Washington to the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge in Alaska with 10 other congressmen, all Republicans.
He said he wants to see what ANWR looks like, but said he believes it is not as picturesque as some may envision.
"ANWR is not what they see on the news. We're talking about tundra," Mr. Latta said.
Republicans are hoping that pressure from rising gasoline prices and fears of a decline in America's economy will spur demands on Congress to open ANWR to oil exploration.
Democrats have shown no sign of wavering in their opposition. Even Republican presidential candidate John McCain opposes drilling in the wildlife refuge as does his Democratic rival, Barack Obama.
In 1995, President Bill Clinton vetoed a bill to authorize oil exploration in the 19-million-acre refuge on North Slope, not far from Prudhoe Bay, which has been producing oil since 1977.
However, a Democratic-backed plan that passed the House in May to authorize $18 billion in credits primarily for renewable energy development has stalled in the Senate.
Among the objections Democrats have to ANWR drilling is the impact on wildlife and that it would distract from investing in renewable energy resources.
Another objection is that whatever oil is produced would be traded on the global market, so the United States would get no more benefit from the added coal than the other worldwide energy users. One estimate projects peak production from ANWR at about 1 percent of the world supply of oil.
Mr. Latta suggested that the lease to the oil producers to use federal land could require that the oil be supplied only to the domestic market.
Mr. Latta said he believes that awareness that the U.S. is tapping its domestic reserves would help lower gasoline prices.
The White House-sponsored delegation is traveling on Air Force aircraft and is being coordinated by the Department of the Interior. The trip will stop for a day at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory near Denver and then continue on Saturday to Fairbanks, Alaska.
On Sunday, the group will fly to Deadhorse, Prudhoe Bay, the center of existing Alaskan oil drilling operations. The visit will also involve a flyover of the proposed exploration area and a stop in Kaktovik, a town of about 300 people, where the delegation plans to meet the mayor and city council.
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