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Last Updated: Wednesday, 21 December 2005, 19:22 GMT
Senate blocks Alaska oil drilling
The coastal plain of Alaska's Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR)
Up to 10bn barrels of oil may lie beneath the Alaskan tundra
The US Senate has narrowly blocked a Republican-led attempt to allow drilling for oil in Alaska's Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR).

Supporters of the plan fell four votes short of the number needed to prevent opponents using a filibuster - or delaying tactic - to derail the vote.

The Republicans had hoped to win Senate support by tacking the Alaska measure on to a major defence spending bill.

Both sets of legislation are likely to be presented again separately.

Supporters of drilling in Alaska say it offers an alternative source of energy to the Middle East and so would improve national security.

Opponents warn oil exploration would harm a pristine wilderness and endanger a key habitat for migratory birds, polar bears, caribou and other animals.

Oil imports

The Republicans fell short of the 60 votes needed to avoid the Democrat-led filibuster, with the tally standing at 56-44.

A herd of musk ox graze in an area of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge in Alaska
Alaska's Arctic National Wildlife Refuge covers 19 million acres
Senate leaders are expected to withdraw the defence spending bill to redraw it without the Alaska drilling provision.

Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist was among those to vote 'No' because, under Senate rules, as a member of the majority he would be allowed to bring up the drilling issue for another vote.

Alaska Republican Ted Stevens had attached the measure to the defence spending bill - an essential piece of legislation - in the hope it would be passed.

Fellow Alaska Republican Lisa Murkowski also backed it, saying: "If we can do anything more to reduce our reliance on oil imports, we need to do it."


But some Republicans joined the filibuster for fear the defence bill would be derailed by the ANWR measure.

Democrats accused Senator Stevens of holding the defence bill "hostage" to Alaska drilling.

"We all agree we want money for our troops... This is not about the troops," said Democratic Senator John Kerry.

Democratic leader Harry Reid said the Senate could move quickly to pass the defence bill once the ANWR issue had been resolved.

Opening a portion of the refuge to oil and gas exploration has been a goal of US companies for a quarter of a century - and is a key objective of the Bush administration.

The White House believes access to the estimated 10bn-plus barrels of crude oil would cut American reliance on imports, create jobs and raise revenue.

US closer to Alaska oil drilling
20 Dec 05 |  Americas
US Senate rejects Alaska oil ban
04 Nov 05 |  Americas
Filibuster row could 'go nuclear'
19 May 05 |  Americas
Senate backs Alaska oil drilling
16 Mar 05 |  Americas
Oil fuels votes in Alaska
25 Sep 04 |  Americas

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