Friedman lauded Lugar's "oil addiction" speech -- ignored Lugar's pro-oil past

››› ››› SIMON MALOY

New York Times columnist Thomas L. Friedman lauded a speech made by Sen. Richard Lugar about breaking the United States' oil addiction, but Friedman ignored Lugar's extensive record in the Senate advocating oil drilling in Alaska's Arctic National Wildlife Reserve and Lugar's vote, just last year, against a measure that would have set targets for reducing U.S. dependence on foreign oil.

New York Times columnist Thomas L. Friedman lauded Sen. Richard Lugar (R-IN) for delivering "[o]ne of the best speeches I've ever read about the necessity of breaking America's oil addiction now, and redefining 'realism.' " In his March 22 Times column (subscription required), Friedman wrote of the speech, which Lugar delivered at the Brookings Institution in Washington, D.C., on March 13: "Drop what you are doing and read it at www.brookings.edu." Absent from Friedman's column, however, was any mention of Lugar's extensive record in the Senate advocating for oil drilling in Alaska's Arctic National Wildlife Reserve (ANWR) -- which Friedman has spoken out against -- and Lugar's vote, just last year, against a measure that would have set targets for reducing U.S. dependence on foreign oil.

From Friedman's March 22 Times column:

One of the most important laws of political debate is this: To name something is to own it. If you can name something, get that name to stick and therefore define how people think about an issue, your opponents don't stand a chance. One of the most pernicious things that Vice President Dick Cheney and Big Oil have done for years is to define ''realism'' when it comes to U.S. energy policy -- and therefore they have owned the debate.

[...]

One of the best speeches I've ever read about the necessity of breaking America's oil addiction now, and redefining ''realism,'' was delivered by Senator Richard Lugar, the Republican who is chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, at the Brookings Institution on March 13. Drop what you are doing and read it at www.brookings.edu.

[...]

While acknowledging that the oil alternatives still require a huge amount of work in order to achieve the necessary scale, Mr. Lugar insists that with a big strategic push we can, and must, get there: ''My message is that the balance of realism has passed from those who argue on behalf of oil and a laissez-faire energy policy that relies on market evolution, to those who recognize that in the absence of a major reorientation in the way we get our energy, life in America is going to be much more difficult in the coming decades. No one who is honestly assessing the decline of American leverage around the world due to our energy dependence can fail to see that energy is the albatross of U.S. national security.

"We have entered a different energy era that requires a much different response than in past decades. What is needed is an urgent national campaign led by a succession of presidents and Congresses who will ensure that American ingenuity and resources are fully committed to this problem.''

Lugar, however, has long supported oil drilling in ANWR, and as recently as November 5, 2005, voted against an amendment to the Deficit Reduction Omnibus Reconciliation Act of 2005 that would have removed language allowing "the establishment of an oil and gas leasing program" in ANWR. On March 16, 2005, Lugar voted against an amendment that would have removed language from the FY 2006 budget approving drilling in ANWR. All told, Lugar has voted to open ANWR to drilling no fewer than five times since 2001.

Lugar even noted in the speech Friedman lauded: "Even as we strive to reduce the prevalence of fossil fuel in our energy portfolio, pragmatism requires that we diversify to the greatest extent possible our sources of oil and natural gas. I have supported opening ANWR for exploration. While we continue to debate production there and on the outer continental shelf, we have to carefully consider both the security and economic benefits of more exploration, as well as the environmental costs."

Friedman, in his March 17, 2005, Times column, attacked the Bush administration for striving to open ANWR to drilling, noting that drilling in Alaska will do little to help the U.S. economy, and could lead to increased global warming:

On energy, the Bush team's obsession with drilling in the Alaskan wilderness to increase supply is mind-boggling. ''I am sure China will be thrilled with the Bush decision to drill in Alaska,'' said the noted energy economist Philip Verleger Jr. ''Oil in Alaska cannot easily or efficiently be shipped to our Gulf Coast refineries. The logical markets are on the West Coast of the United States and in Asia. Consumers in China and Japan, not the U.S., will be the real beneficiaries of any big Alaska find.

''With a big find, China and Japan will be able to increase imports from a dependable supplier -- the U.S. -- while consumers in the U.S. will still be at the mercy of unreliable suppliers, such as Venezuela and Saudi Arabia. It is simple geography. [Also], a big find will lead to lower prices in the short term, promoting more emissions and more warming.''

On June 16, 2005, Lugar voted against an amendment to the Energy Policy Act of 2005 that proposed to "improve the energy security of the United States and reduce United States dependence on foreign oil imports by 40 percent by 2025."

Friedman gave only a vague indication that Lugar has supported oil interests in the past, writing: "I draw great hope from seeing that smart conservatives like him are no longer willing to let Dick Cheney and Big Oil tell them what is ''realistic'' when it comes to America's energy future."

Posted In
Environment & Science, Energy
Network/Outlet
The New York Times
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