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CNN Today

U.S. Government Faces Pressure to Increase Alaskan Oil Drilling, Balance Environmental Concerns

Aired March 16, 2000 - 2:04 p.m. ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

LOU WATERS, CNN ANCHOR: American oil producers say the quick and easy answer to the gas price dilemma is to open more U.S. land drilling. But the government faces a balancing act between energy costs and concerns for the environment.

CNN's Rusty Dornin looks at a case in point.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

RUSTY DORNIN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): When it costs more than $2 a gallon to keep the wheels turning, there are those who say we need only turn to the tundra for relief -- the Alaskan tundra, the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge known as ANWR, 1.5 million acres now closed to oil exploration unless Congress decides otherwise. Alaskan Senator Frank Murkowski wants Congress to do just that.

SEN. FRANK MURKOWSKI (R), ALASKA: We can open up ANWR safely.

DORNIN: Environmentalists call it the biological heart of Alaska and compare it to the Serengeti plains of Africa for the diversity of its wildlife. They say put an oil field here, and you will destroy it forever.

BRUCE HAMILTON, SIERRA CLUB: So we are going to sacrifice something that we should be passing onto our grandchildren as a national heritage in order to have a quick fix of oil for six months, and if you really want to have some additional oil, there are better ways to do it through conservation.

DORNIN: Alaska ships 10 percent of its oil to Asia, but petroleum producers say the percentage is too small to affect U.S. supplies or prices.

(on camera): When gas prices soar, the rallying cry by the oil industry is open the refuge and drill, and the U.S. would no longer be over a barrel.

MARK RUBIN, AMERICAN PETROLEUM INSTITUTE: It's been estimated, based upon United States Geological Service estimates, that we could replace the same amount of oil that we're currently importing from Saudi Arabia for the next 30 years from ANWR production.

DORNIN: As the oil industry dreams of vast pools of crude beneath the Arctic tundra, environmentalists say their dream is to get President Clinton to declare it a national monument: the only surefire way, they say, to keep the refuge wild and free.

Rusty Dornin, CNN, San Francisco.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

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