A group of republican state legislators are critical of what they say is an attempt by U-S Senator Tom Harkin to link increased ethanol use with a ban on oil drilling in Alaska. Harkin is the democrat who chairs the Senate Ag Committee. The Bush Administration is in favor of drilling for oil in the Alaska National Wildlife Refuge, also known as “An-war.” State Senator Jerry Behn is the chair of the Ag Committee. Behn says the environmental impact of drilling in Alaska has been overblown.He says the drilling would take place in a small sliver of the area that is less than pristine wildlife habitat. Behn, a republican from Boone, says the U-S needs to drill in Alaska to help reduce our dependence on foreign oil.He says the Department of Interior estimates Alaska would yield 16-billion barrels of oil, roughly the amount imported from Saudi Arabia in 30 years. Behn says both of Alaska’s U-S Senators support the plans to drill in the refuge. State representative Gene Manternach of Cascade says both ethanol and Alaska drilling are important.Manternach is on the House Ag Committee and says he bases his opinions on what he’s heard from constituents, who he says are concerned about the environment, but want to end the country’s dependence on foreign oil. The issue arose out of a new homeland security proposal being considered in Congress in which a percentage of corn-based ethanol would be required in gas pumps nationwide in an effort to reduce oil consumption.
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