Reports in July indicated there might be a GOP platform battle over drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR). It ended up being a skirmish.


David Boyle, a delegate from Alaska, proposed an amendment that would explicitly call for drilling in "the coastal plain of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge." In an interview Tuesday, Boyle told me he saw the amendment as critical because "it's a problem when you have 10 billion barrels of oil in your backyard and you don't want to use them." Several delegates supported the amendment, including Cathie Adams, president of the Texas Eagle Forum. "I also have an extreme interest in national security, and having us vulnerable to another oil embargo and those with religious doctrines who wish to harm us and our allies--it's not good to be beholden to those interests," Adams said Tuesday.

But, they had several opponents--delegates who feared that a platform straying too far from the nominee's views might confuse voters and make the party appear broken. They advocated leaving the ANWR issue alone.

In the end, after much debate, both sides got a piece of the pie. The amendment failed, but Kim Skipper, the other Alaskan delegate on the committee, proposed compromise language: The GOP will "oppose any efforts and action to permanently block access to the coastal plain of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge." Boyle and Adams both said they are happy with the result because it leaves ANWR drilling on the table. Still, Boyle said "a lot of Alaskans may have been more pleased if the amendment had been in the platform." Adams insisted that drilling needs to start "as soon as possible."

So, what happens now, seeing as McCain still hasn't embraced the idea? It seems delegates close to the platform process are absolutely certain that advisors and vice-presidential nominee Sarah Palin, who supports drilling, will knock some sense into McCain. Adams said that if elected, McCain would leave the "politics of global warming" behind him. "We are seeing already with Mr. McCain that when the science is in, when the research has been done, he has a record of coming in line with what is best for our country," she told me. And even Jeff Grossman, an Oregon delegate who opposed Boyle's amendment out of concern for divisiveness, said in committee debate that he thinks McCain will "eventually come around to our position."

"So I would say prudence would dictate that we leave the text as it is until our candidate catches up with us a little bit," he added.

The delegates could be right. After all, McCain reversed his position on offshore drilling in a snap.

--Seyward Darby