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Congressional Budget for the United States Government for Fiscal Year 2004- Continued

Location: Washington, DC

March 18, 2003


Ms. CANTWELL. Mr. President, I commend the Senator from California for her articulate presentation of this issue, not only protecting a very important part of our wildlife refuge system but also for talking about the issue from an energy consumption perspective. Where is the best place for the United States to be investing its time and energy and to get the highest return, particularly at a time when our foreign dependence on oil is very important for us to make those decisions to move forward?

I commend the Senator from California for her time and energy and for her amendment that we will be voting on tomorrow, a very important amendment that, on the one hand, you could say got a lot of attention in a debate last year. This body heard many hours of presentation from a variety of Members and made a decision on that issue. Tomorrow I will support Senator Boxer's amendment, but I question seriously why we have to go to this extent of having Senator Boxer's amendment at all. Why is this issue coming up on a budget resolution when a more appropriate time and place would be for us to take it up as part of our energy discussion, even though we did that last year and decided that it wasn't a priority for us in the Senate?

I support what we are trying to do in protecting the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge because by protecting that wildlife, we are protecting as well a great part of what has been the last great wilderness in the United States. Proponents of drilling in the Arctic Refuge talk about reducing dependence on foreign energy supplies. I also support us focusing on reducing that foreign energy. But the best way to meet that goal is to develop a domestic natural gas resource, particularly looking at Alaska, and also to promote renewable energy technologies and reduce oil consumption through conservation measures.

Alaska is a very important source of domestic energy. Make no mistake about that. The North Slope has trillions of cubic feet of natural gas. We should develop that natural gas on Federal lands, including the National Petroleum Reserve which was set aside for development. I am eager to work with my colleagues, Senator Stevens and Senator Murkowski and others, to build that gas pipeline to bring natural gas to the marketplace. Building a gas pipeline and developing the NPRA in an environmentally sound manner will create jobs in Alaska and will benefit the Native communities. It will strengthen our overall energy policy.

We also, though, need to develop renewable energy sources, including domestically produced biofuels, and to focus on energy efficiency technologies, some of which I am sure we will be discussing later in an energy bill. These technologies can reduce our dependence on foreign oil sources.

For example, Senator Boxer showed a chart on what could be done by using low-friction tires. That was an interesting chart because we have seen that in focusing on these new cars to help them comply with fuel standards, these new tires could cut gasoline consumption of all U.S. vehicles by 3 percent. That is a savings to our Nation of about 5 billion barrels of oil over the next 50 years. As Senator Boxer pointed out, the reason that number is so important is, it is the same amount, 5 billion barrels over the next 50 years, that the U.S. Geological Survey says can be economically recovered from drilling in ANWR
Why take what is a national treasure in the last great wilderness for these 5 billion barrels when we can do the same thing by moving to a more efficient energy economy?

I believe through a balanced approach, we can demonstrate our commitment both to wildlife conservation and strengthening energy security.

However, this budget resolution is not a balanced approach. Drilling in the Arctic really is a reversal in America of about 100 years of commitment to conservation. I say that because, most importantly, the resolution would violate our duty as stewards of the Arctic Refuge, in the National Wildlife Refuge System as a major system, and would take away what has been one of our most valuable national treasures.

During this debate, we must consider the number of people who have been involved and how we have been involved over the last 100 years to work to protect the sensitive wildlife habitat in this country and specifically the Arctic Refuge. Senator Boxer showed many pictures demonstrating what that wildlife refuge looks like and how pristine it is today and the wildlife that exists there. Everyone in this body wants to see us continue the Wildlife Refuge System.

Last week, we marked our 100th anniversary of establishing the National Wildlife Refuge System. That was done by President Theodore Roosevelt at Pelican Island—the 100-year anniversary. Through that work, countless Americans have helped build a system of over 500 refuges in every State in the country. Tens of thousands of volunteers, several hundred "friends organizations," scores of partnership organizations have worked closely with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to maintain the integrity of the system.

In Washington State, local volunteers have built and helped protect various lands: Willapa Bay, the Nisqually River, the Hanford Reach of the Columbia River, and many other locations. Americans have worked to build the system because they love wildlife and because there is the trust that we in Congress will be good stewards of these lands.

Unfortunately, that stewardship is being called into question with this budget resolution as an assault on the system as a whole. This budget undermines the work of millions of Americans, including hunters, anglers, wildlife enthusiasts, and many others.

It is very important that the hard work and focus of maintaining our wildlife, not just in the Arctic but all throughout America, be celebrated this week as we have reached this 100th anniversary, and that we support the Boxer amendment tomorrow, to say there is a wiser way for us to preserve and to move forward our energy conservation and security, and that there is a wiser way for us to get off our foreign dependence on oil, and that wiser way will mean making the right investment in natural gas, in technology, in conservation, and in preserving the Arctic Refuge.

I yield the floor.

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