It’s difficult to work up outrage these days, I know. But still.

Republicans have long had a >hard on for drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. It’s never made any sense — the amount of oil we could get is a tiny fraction of what we need, and it’s 10 years out in the future. It will do nothing to reduce energy prices or dependence on foreign oil. Now it turns out that even the oil companies themselves don’t think it’s worth it.

A Bush adviser says the major oil companies have a dimmer view of the refuge’s prospects than the administration does. “If the government gave them the leases for free they wouldn’t take them,” said the adviser, who would speak only anonymously because of his position. “No oil company really cares about ANWR,” the adviser said, using an acronym for the refuge, pronounced “an-war.”

Wayne Kelley, who worked in Alaska as a petroleum engineer for Halliburton, the oil services corporation, and is now managing director of RSK, an oil consulting company, said the refuge’s potential could “only be determined by drilling.”

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“The enthusiasm of government officials about ANWR exceeds that of industry because oil companies are driven by market forces, investing resources in direct proportion to the economic potential, and the evidence so far about ANWR is not promising,” Mr. Kelley said.

Drilling in the refuge isn’t about the oil under the ice. In part, supporters believe that weakening and eventually overcoming public resistance to drilling there will make it easier to start getting drills in more promising areas off the coasts of California and Florida. But even more, it’s simply become a symbol.

… many Republicans hope to claim opening the refuge to exploration as a victory in the long-running conflict between development interests and environmentalists.


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The refuge is a symbol of that larger debate, said Senator Lisa Murkowski, an Alaska Republican who is a major supporter of drilling.

It’s not about oil any more, it’s about political power, and if they have to piss on one of the country’s last untouched places to prove their wankers are bigger, they’ll do it.