Congress Could Make Decision on ANWAR

In a few weeks, Congress could resolve one of the most contentious issues on Capitol Hill: whether to drill in Alaska's Arctic National Wildlife Refuge or ANWAR. Alaska drilling is at the center of a debate about diminishing America's dependence on foreign oil and Congress is struggling with how to improve the country's energy policy.

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Congress approved a big energy bill over the summer. But that left consumers wondering what good it did after gas prices skyrocketed following Hurricane Katrina. So there's still more to do. Republican Texas Representative Joe Barton heads the House Energy Panel. He says the hurricane's devastation trained a spotlight on a major vulnerability in the country's energy supply system.

Democratic Texas Representative Gene Green says improved infrastructure would help temper energy prices.

Jim Williams studies the Energy Industry for Arkansas-based WTRG Economics. He cautions when it comes to infrastructure don't hold your breath. He warns that Congress is notorious of having a short attention span.

Refineries may be maneuvered to the back of the energy stove. But Williams says fuel costs could give lawmakers leverage to approve one of the most contentious ideas in energy policy: drilling in Alaska's Arctic National Wildlife Refuge known as ANWAR.

Crunch time is fast approaching on ANWAR. The Senate's already approved a plan to drill there. The house has not. But soon House and Senate negotiators must caucus to work out a final version of that legislation. And ANWAR should be issue number one in the negotiations.

Both Democrats and Republicans are divided on ANWAR. Pro-environmental groups argue ANWAR drilling would foul the pristine area for animals. But Republican Texas Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison dismisses those concerns.

Republican Texas Congressman John Culberson sides with Kay Bailey Hutchison who believes drilling in Alaska would be a boon for the nation.

And that's the dilemma: any potential yields from Alaska drilling are years off. And that again exposes Congress to a potential public relations problem with consumers demanding immediate results from a solution that could take years to pay dividends.

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