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Kristof on the ANWR

The New York Times Nicholas Kristof has completed a week in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge -- the pristine wilderness coveted by oil companies -- and has come away with a reasoned opinion:

I would endorse drilling in the Arctic refuge if it were part of a mega-environmental package that also addressed global warming, an environmental challenge where we have even more at stake than in the Arctic.

Daniel Esty, a Yale scholar of the environment, proposes such a deal -- with trepidation -- in the interest of breaking the national deadlock on environmental policy.

The package could include careful oil exploration in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (exploratory drilling could be done in winter without permanent damage) and, if it turned out to be the oil lake that proponents claim, commercial drilling as well.

In exchange, the right would accept a beyond-Kyoto framework to control carbon emissions, with tighter standards but a longer time frame. The deal would include $1 billion in additional financing for solar, wind and hydrogen energy, and significant increases in vehicle mileage standards to promote conservation.

This is the kind of pragmatism, the give-and-take, the willingness to see both sides that we're going to need -- and that has been so sadly lacking in American politics of late.

Kristof concludes:

Yet President Bush's push to open the Arctic refuge is not part of such a bold and thoughtful package to break the stalemate on the environment. Rather it is simply a lunge for oil. Without trying to conserve oil, Mr. Bush would gobble up a national treasure, the birthright of our descendants, as a first resort.

The argument that I find most compelling is that this primordial wilderness, a part of our national inheritance that is roughly the same as it was a thousand years ago, would be irretrievably lost if we drilled. The Bush administration's proposal to drill is therefore not just bad policy but also shameful, for it would casually rob our descendants forever of the chance to savor this magical coastal plain...

By actually visiting the ANWR and writing about his experiences, Nicholas helped me make up my mind on the issue -- no drilling except as part of a broad, pro-conservation energy measure -- and for that I'm grateful.

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