Monday, December 19, 2005

Arctic Oil and Submarines

From The Stamford Advocate - Conn. defense funds stalled by Senate's Arctic oil fight

WASHINGTON -- Billions of dollars in federal funds targeted for Connecticut defense firms will sit in limbo as the Senate wrestles over the contentious issue of Arctic oil drilling.

Democrats, including Sen. Joe Lieberman of Connecticut, are threatening to filibuster the defense appropriations bill as Congress rushes to finish its work before Christmas. They object to language added to the bill by Republicans that would open Alaska's Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to oil drilling.

Connecticut Democrat lawmakers are in a difficult position, do they unite behind their party and filibuster the $453 billion military spending bill over an Arctic oil drilling provision, or let it pass in favor of their Connecticut constituents in the defense industries.

Both CT Democrat Senators Joe Lieberman and Christopher Dodd spoke out against the ANWR oil drilling provision in the current defense bill. Whereas, Republican Rep. Rob Simmons said this about the defense bill "The bill provides some relief for the unique work force at Electric Boat. I will continue to work in Congress to ensure that good-paying shipbuilding jobs remain in Connecticut." Simmons district includes the Electric Boat Groton shipyard.

In the bill Electric Boat would receive $2.5 billion for an additional Virginia Class nuclear attack submarine and $15 million for the design of a new attack submarine. Electric Boat had recently announced a planned layoff of 2,400 shipyard workers in 2006.

Perhaps if we started purchasing diesel submarines from Europe Lieberman and Dodd could find their way to backing the ANWR provision. Although I don't think ANWR oil drilling belongs in a defense bill I do believe we need a better energy policy than the current no new drilling, no new refinery environmentalist lock. Speaking of energy, the defense bill also includes $3.75 million for Fuel Cell Energy in Danbury CT to develop a molten carbon clean fuel cell generator.

Update 12/20/05: Rhode Island lawmakers add their disapproval to the Defense bill's ANWR provision with Sen. Jack Reed (D) saying "It is a cynical gesture that has delayed approval of this important bill". The bill is important because R.I. firms could gain more than $50 million in the defense bill so I suspect the RI lawmakers to approve the spending bill despite their complaints.

Update 12/21/05: Sen. Ted Stevens (R- Alaska) lost his bid to attach ANWR oil drilling provision to the Defense bill.

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