Presidential Historian: Obama Could Permanently Ban ANWR Drilling

     Still more than two months from his inauguration, President-elect Barack Obama has started promoting his policies and naming some of his advisers. And according to one historian, he could be developing a plan to permanently block drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.

      Douglas Brinkley, a noted presidential historian and professor at Rice University in Houston, told viewers of CNN’s Nov. 11 “Lou Dobbs Tonight” how Obama could change ANWR’s designation from a National Wildlife Refuge to a National Monument. That power was granted to presidents by the Antiquities Act of 1906, and would not require any approval from Congress.

     “I think what they’re trying to do is in the Obama administration, start pointing out some clear divot spots where they’re going to deviate from the Bush administration –things like Guantanamo, things that, ‘No, we are not going to be for drilling around parks,’” Brinkley said.

     “I wouldn’t be surprised in the coming year if you see someplace like ANWR in Alaska turn from being a wildlife refuge run by U.S. Fish and Wildlife and turn over to becoming a National Monument where you couldn’t drill. So you’re going to be, and that’s because you’re going to have to do some things sort of on the cheap,” he said.

      Dobbs asked Brinkley how Obama might try to overcome hurdles if gas prices were to return to their summer highs. Brinkley said that in lieu of drilling in the Gulf of Mexico or ANWR, Obama may try other options that would have broad foreign policy implications.

      “Where do you make up the oil if you put ANWR away as a national monument, if you decide not to do a major drilling project in the Gulf, where do you get the oil?” Brinkley asked. “It’s either through trade in the Middle East or increased productivity with Venezuela. Right now we don’t even have an ambassador in Caracas and it brings somebody like Chávez in the picture. Do you negotiate with somebody like that? That’ll be up to a new Secretary of State.”

     According to, Obama’s current list of possible Secretaries of State include former Democratic Presidential candidate and Massachusetts Sen. John Kerry, Obama campaign adviser Susan Rice, former U.N. ambassador and New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson, Republican Sen. Dick Lugar, Ind., and former Democratic Georgia Sen. Sam Nunn.

      Of those candidates, both Kerry and Lugar have spoken harshly of Chávez. However, Richardson met with Chávez in April, part of an effort to restart talks with neighboring Colombia to secure the release of hostages held by leftist FARC rebels in Colombia’s four-decade old civil war.