House Republicans this week will renew their push to drill for oil in the Alaska National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR), with proceeds from the federal revenues it would create dedicated to funding road construction.
Proponents of the project say it would save the U.S. $14 billion a year in oil imports and create more than half a million jobs on the Coastal Plain, in addition to funding infrastructure jobs building roads.
Rep. Don Young (R.-Alaska) says the Highway Trust Fund is struggling to finance projects, and that new sources of revenue are needed to keep the country’s roads in good repair.
“This is a common-sense plan. The revenue generated from drilling in ANWR will help keep the Highway Trust Fund from defaulting and will create jobs at the same time,” Young said.
The trust fund is financed through gasoline taxes, but revenues have run short the past six years, with a deficit now reaching $7 billion, and no new funding streams have been approved.
Rep. Doc Hastings (R.-Wash.), chairman of the House Resources Committee, said the legislation brings needed dollars into the federal Treasury without raising taxes.
“Responsibly harnessing America’s abundant offshore and onshore energy resources will create millions of new American jobs, lower energy prices and generate new revenue to help pay for infrastructure improvements, thereby creating even more jobs,” Hastings said.
“Good-paying energy jobs and infrastructure go hand in hand. When new energy resources are developed, we’ll need updated infrastructure to bring it to market. By linking the two, we will not only create new energy jobs, but also new infrastructure jobs—without raising taxes,” Hastings said.
The legislation is part of Republican efforts to boost energy production in the U.S. to pay for new infrastructure projects rather than increase stimulus spending, the solution proposed by President Obama.
“I’m not opposed to responsible spending to repair and improve infrastructure. But if we want to do it in a way that truly supports long-term economic growth and job creation, let’s link the next [infrastructure] bill to an expansion of American-made energy production,” House Speaker John Boehner (R.-Ohio) told the Economic Club of Washington in September.
The bill is sponsored by Young and Hastings, and will get its first preview during a Friday hearing in the House Resources subcommittee on energy and mineral resources. Democrats are expected to oppose the bill, and the Obama administration is exploring new federal protections by designating ANWR as a wilderness area that would limit new energy productions.
“Common sense would make this a no-brainer, but there doesn’t seem to be a lot of common sense in Washington,” said Dan Kish, senior vice president for policy at the Institute for Energy Research. “Jobs, energy, a trillion dollars’ worth of oil, all of these things should make Congress say yes, but leftist politicians will still say no.”