Gov. Sarah Palin

In a letter to Democratic Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and other key  leaders, Alaska Republican Gov. Sarah Palin urges Congress to allow drilling for oil on the Outer Continental Shelf and the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge in northern Alaska, an area she calls “the most promising unexplored petroleum province in North America.”

“What will it take for Congress to enact comprehensive energy policy?” Palin asks in the letter, dated yesterday. “In my opinion, the debate about energy policy is no longer theoretical and abstract. Our failure to enact an energy policy is having real consequences for every American in their daily lives and has begun to affect America’s place in the world.”

Palin, whose name appears on lists of potential vice-presidential candidates, concludes with a bold challenge: “I don’t think it’s overly dramatic to say that his nation’s future and the quality of life for every American are dependent on the decision you make or don’t make in the next few months.”

Last week, Reid called Sen. John McCain’s call for offshore drilling “nothing more than a cynical campaign ploy that will do nothing to lower energy prices and represents another big giveaway to oil companies already making billions in profits.”

Lumping Palin in that accusation would prove difficult, as the governor made headlines earlier in her term for taking on Alaska’s oil and gas commissioner, who was also the GOP state chairman, for ethics violations. More recently, she worked with bipartisan support to win an increased tax on oil companies’ profits.

Palin says in her letter she does not guarantee a price drop with drilling in ANWR but argues increasing domestic oil supply would “help reduce price volatility” and “send a strong message to oil speculators.”

“Yet, there is an even more important point,” Palin writes, contending America must take measures to decrease dependence on foreign oil, since “U.S. petrodollars are financing activities that are harmful to America and to our economic and military interests around the world.”

Environmentalists and Democrats in Congress long have argued against increased drilling in the U.S., favoring instead conservation and alternative fuels. Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Barack Obama’s website promises $150 billion in increased spending to develop new fuels and renewable energy sources.

Palin’s letter argues against looking only to those approaches, pointing out a need for domestic oil production to supply the economy’s many products made from petroleum, not just gasoline.

“The soaring prices of chemicals, plastics, fertilizer and other products – and the loss of jobs – graphically illustrate this point,” the letter states. “We must recognize that is will be many years, if ever, before we discover alternatives to the petroleum-based products that every American uses in our daily lives.”

Palin addresses the concerns of environmentalists about drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, or ANWR.

Oil exploration and development “can be conducted in a safe manner,” she writes, pointing out the footprint of oil development facilities in ANWR would take up “less than 2,000 acres” of a refuge roughly the size of South Carolina.


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