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Oil industry hits back at environmentalists

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- The oil industry and groups backing the effort to drill for oil in Alaska's Arctic National Wildlife Refuge have announced a $200,000 dollar advertising campaign for the Washington market which it hopes will sway votes in Congress over to its side of the debate.

The Energy Stewardship Alliance plans to spend $125,000 on television ads and another $73,000 on radio ads.

The TV ad opens with black and white pictures of gas lines from oil shortage of the early 1970s. A voice-over says: "Today America is more dependent on foreign oil than during the energy crisis in the 70s. Twenty years ago, Congress set aside a small part of Alaska to provide for our energy security."

While the intent of Congress on the set aside is debatable, the message that backers are trying to send is that technology has advanced far enough to allow oil exploration to co-exist with nature.

"Our opponents have an ad which we think is grossly misleading, said Roger Herrera, heading up the ESA. "And while we are not attacking or even answering that ad, we are trying to give a picture of this issue which is much more close to reality than the one that they represented."

Herrera's group seeks to counter a TV ad running in Washington by the Audubon Society that uses scenes from the catastrophic oil spill in Alaska's Prince William Sound as an argument against opening ANWR to exploration.

Sen. John Breaux, a Democrat from Louisiana, provides a political weapon for the mostly Republican backers of drilling ANWR.

"There are currently 1,442 active wells in wildlife management areas in Louisiana," Breaux said. "Has it been done perfectly? Of course not. But I think over the last 60 years we've learned how to balance the search for oil and gas in sensitive areas with the need for that production. And the result has been something, I think, all areas can learn from."

Sen. Frank Murkowski, R-Alaska, has advocated drilling in ANWR for years. He said the oil in ANWR can reduce the nation's dependence on oil from other countries and provide jobs for Alaskans. At a news conference kicking off the ad campaign, Murkowski held up a full page ad in the New York Times which read "The last thing California needs is more power plants."

"If you believe this, you believe the world is flat," Murkowski said. "Because that's what some are suggesting: The last thing California needs is more power plants. If there's anything California needs, its more energy and you don't get it from thin air."

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4:30pm ET, 4/16

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