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It isn’t often that CSPAN gets interesting, but this little bit of congressional bickering is downright worthy of MTV. Jersey Shore ain’t got nothin’ on the House Committee on Natural Resources!

Don Young seems to be getting beat-up all over the net on account of this rant, mostly on account of the seeming arrogance of his approach to Professor Brinkly. To be fair, the video does leave out a cheap shot or two coming from the good Professor himself (the love of money theme is ad hominem gold right on par with Young’s sneering “ivory tower” comments). Still, I’m less interested in chasing down the particulars of personal outrage here than I am about the manipulation of regional credentials.

It is fair enough to say many up here want drilling to take place, but one has to wonder about the “small minority” that opposes it. And just what separates Young’s dismissal of this minority from his approach to the outside “elites” who assert an interest in the arctic refuge? The latter is too far away to be considered, but the former is simply too small. What both have in common is that their views simply do not seem to count. More to the point, I wonder just how much of the North Slope community would agree that “the arctic plane is really nothing?”

I wonder how many people from Kaktovik would say that about the coastal region of ANWR?

Yes, those are rhetorical questions. The landscape that Young dismisses in this clip means a great deal to much of the Inupiaq population of the North Slope, a fact which makes it difficult to swallow these comments coming as they do from someone who was at that very moment lecturing an outsider on his lack of concern for local interests. On that point at least, Young’s perspective is deeply flawed.

Of course part of Young’s larger argument is that the area actually subject to drilling is negligible, but the accuracy of estimates on both the planned drilling footprint and the risk in case of accidents are both open to question. …as is the actual economic impact of the oil on the national and regional economies.  There are a number of legitimate questions about both the environmental impact and economic benefits of ANWR. Unfortunately, it does not build confidence to hear someone claiming to have those answers dismiss as valueless the land upon which this drilling is to take place. …all the while claiming to represent the interests of locals who do indeed value that land.

Anyway, this clip is not Don Young at his best. There is a reasonable case to be made for drilling in ANWR, and it includes (as Young himself argues) consideration of the economic benefits to natives of the North Slope. That case does not include this kind of low-brow snobbery and xenophobic commentary, nor does it include a willful dismissal of the tundra as barren wasteland.

I wouldn’t suggest that the second video (taken from the same hearings) quite manages to make that reasonable case for drilling at ANWR (I am for example a little suspicious of the claim that failure to drill in ANWR is the long-term cause of 9-11). Still Young is a bit more calm here in this second video and you can get a better sense of his approach to the issue from it.

Don’t worry, the word “garbage” makes an appearance here too.