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More than oil in Iraq #045; or Alaska

In the midst of war and an international uproar over war, oil has become a convenient scapegoat. President Bush's critics claim the war in Iraq is about oil and the access to oil.

The White House denies it, but the administration's supporters blithely attribute France's opposition to the war as somehow grounded in – that's right, oil.

Could it be that not everything on earth centers on oil, its supply, its cost? What kinds of things? Wilderness lands, for one – American wilderness lands, irreplaceable and pristine wilderness lands.

On Wednesday, the Republican-controlled U.S. Senate voted 52-48 not to allow oil exploration in Alaska's Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. Although the Bush administration made the refuge drilling a centerpiece of its energy policy, the vote mirrored similar outcomes in the Senate in recent years.

The White House argued that the refuge held the largest untapped oil deposits in North America. They insisted that Arctic refuge oil would make us rely less on petroleum from politically volatile regions of the world.

Environmentalists countered that the mere act of exploration would spoil the fragile region and that the oil, if it ever flowed, would meet the nation's need for only a few months at most.

The Senate's majority – mostly Democrats but a few Republicans, too – understood something important about this debate. They understood that as vital as oil is to the

American economy there are some things that should not be sacrificed. That understanding sends a message to the world that America is about more than money and the rapacious use of resources. After all, one thing Americans share with many other cultures is an abiding respect for the land.

It may be that the people who are the strongest supporters of the war in Iraq also supported drilling in the Arctic refuge. Let them consider that the United States' goal in Iraq,

agree with it or not, isn't merely about oil, just as the Arctic refuge isn't just about oil.

As for those with different views, if America is willing to pay higher prices for gasoline so as not to despoil nature, might it not also be willing to make other sacrifices in other places over other issues?

Those might be some things to think about – if people can stop calling each other names for a moment.

The Birmingham News

March 21, 2003