A small bit of good news

WASHINGTON (Reuters) — The Senate Wednesday narrowly voted against opening the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR) to oil drilling, defeating the centerpiece of President Bush’s energy policy.

In a tug of war largely along party lines, Senate Republicans called for allowing oil companies to explore the sprawling refuge, on Alaska’s northern coast, to help reduce U.S. oil imports.

Democrats, a few moderate Republicans and environmental groups argue the pristine wilderness should be left untouched in favor of stricter oil conservation measures and drilling elsewhere.

The vote was 52-48 to reject drilling in ANWR.

Congressional sources said key votes were cast by Minnesota Sen. Norm Coleman and Oregon Sen. Gordon Smith. Both Republicans opposed opening the refuge to drilling in the past, but had been the target of heavy lobbying by their party on an issue that is important to the White House at a time when the nation is on the brink of war with Iraq.