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Environment

Dems Won't Surrender ANWR

Collide-a-ScapeBy Keith KloorOctober 14, 2009 11:50 PM

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Do leading Democrats and enviros want a climate change bill so bad that they are being snookered by Republicans? Absolutely, argues Roger Pielke, Jr:

The take over of climate policy by the Republican agenda is the most over-looked aspect of this entire debate. Perhaps those covering the horse race can't see the forest for the trees.

He's referring specifically to the public land and offshore gas drilling concessions that Dems are eager to offer up. Roger then wonders

what will happen if drilling in ANWR were to become an explicit part of the climate bill negotiations? Are left-leaning Democrats willing to give that away in silence as well?

That aint gonna happen, Roger. ANWR is an environmental totem, too important symbolically to surrender. During the previous eight years, the Bush Administation played a smart game of bait & switch, suckering mainstream enviros into expending all their political capitol on saving ANWR while vast tracts of Western public lands in Wyoming, Colorado, New Mexico, and Utah got carved up by gas drillers. Yeah, enviros put up a token fight, but they would have laid down their lives for ANWR, and the Bush team knew it. Paul Roberts, in his 2004 book The End of Oil (which I reviewed here), noted a similar dynamic with respect to ANWR and fuel efficiency legislation:

Political strategists have long known that the Arctic Wilderness carried a far higher emotional impact among voters than does for fuel efficiency: even environmentally minded Americans would much rather save polar bears than conserve gallons of gasoline, and this is true even among the membership of big national environmental groups. Political strategists also know that many moderate members of Congress--the so called swing block--feel they can vote "green" on perhaps one big issue a year without offending their more conservative constituents and colleagues.

In sum, I'd be shocked if big Enviros handed over ANWR in exchange for a climate bill. They won't go that far. Their memberships wouldn't allow it. UPDATE: I should have noted that Roger realizes this as well, because he also wrote near the end of his post:

If Republicans want to blow up the bill, they probably just have to press loudly for this [ANWR] provision.

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