Could a land swap solve the ANWR standoff?

Congress has repeatedly refused to allow drilling on the 2,000 acres set aside for that purpose in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, a tiny portion of tundra in a 19-million-acre preserve.  That parcel had been created with the specific intent of extracting oil from the area when ANWR first received its federal protection, but environmentalists have continually blocked oil companies through other federal action.  Sean Parnell, the Lieutenant Governor of Alaska, has a proposal to end federal oversight on that stretch of barren land:

Sean Parnell, lieutenant governor and a Republican candidate for the U.S. House of Representatives, proposed a land swap as a way of opening the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.

“I propose a land swap of 2,000 acres of state land to the federal government in exchange for 2,000 acres of the coastal plain in ANWR into state hands,” Parnell said at a press conference Tuesday in Fairbanks.

Parnell said he could work with Gov. Sarah Palin and the administration to identify the 2,000 acres of state land that would be traded, perhaps extending a portion of ANWR by 2,000 acres.

Could this defuse the controversy?  In a land swap, the federal government would not lose an inch of overall land.  If Alaska offered adjoining land from an area with actual wildlife on it, it would serve to bolster the preserve’s actual mission.  The state would then take responsibility for the parcel where oil extraction would take place, and Alaska would have little trouble overcoming any objections from state groups to get oil flowing as soon as possible from that spot.

Normally, Congress would not be likely to let go of such a potentially lucrative spot, nor would the opponents of drilling on ANWR be willing to stand aside as the parcel passes out of their control.  However, the energy debate this year has had a significant effect on both Capitol Hill and the American electorate.  The latter is angry over the former’s unwillingness to increase domestic production, and while voters remain ambivalent about ANWR, the momentum for drilling there has grown tremendously this summer.

A land swap would allow Congress to graciously eliminate ANWR as an ongoing issue.  Enough Democrats in both chambers want to get this debate in their rear-view mirrors, and a land swap would allow them to save face, especially if it added more significant preserve space to ANWR.  Parnell may have a compromise that will allow everyone, perhaps even the environmentalists, to declare a victory on ANWR.  (via Instapundit)