THE BIG PITCH: How would you go about generating support for oil exploration in Alaska?

Craig Shirley & Diana Banister, President and Vice President, Craig Shirley & Associates

Craig Shirley & Diana Banister, President and Vice President, Craig Shirley & Associates

Craig Shirley & Diana Banister, President and Vice President, Craig Shirley & Associates

After months of paying high gas prices, the demand for new natural resources is growing. Americans are aware of our dependence on oil from the Middle East, but when it affects their wallets, priorities shift Opposing exploration for natural resources in Alaska is a way for the 'lower 48' to feel good about protecting wildlife. Our effort would include talking to natives of Alaska about states' rights and the economic good that oil has already brought to the state. Most Americans aren't aware of Alaska's sheer vastness.

We would educate Americans about the fact that only 10,000 of the 375 million acres of land in Alaska will be used for exploration. That's like using a postage stamp-size area of a football field. Finally, the fact that so much of Alaska is off limits could be likened to another part of the country to help other states' residents empathize. What if, for example, residents of Cambridge, MA, were prohibited from using their summer homes on Cape Cod because the government decided it would hurt the environment?

Drew Kerr, President, Four Corners Communications

My feeling is that we should turn this whole thing into a game show: 'Who Wants to Be an Oil Millionaire?' Regis Philbin can host it in a cowboy hat, and contestants must answer progressively more difficult questions about the many benefits of oil, such as pencils, record albums lighter fluid, and Mickey Rourke's hair. As the dollar amounts increase, the soundtrack, instead of the usual heartbeat, should be a gas pump. And instead of asking for a 'life line,' contestants can ask for a 'pipe line' where they can call a derrick worker for help.

Terry Wade, Executive Vice President Worldwide, Cohn & Wolfe

First, change the debate. Second, stand your ground against the environmentalists. Neither are easy tasks, but last week's spike in inflation, caused by the energy crisis in the West and high energy prices everywhere else, provides the perfect opportunity. If the debate remains over the environment, you lose. If it is about jobs and the future of our children, or even about part of the country's needs balanced against another, then you have a debate you can win. Standing your ground means countering environmentalists' experts with your experts; their data with your data. It won't win the debate, but it makes it easier for the undecideds to support you. There are no facts you can use that will counter the emotional appeal of saving our pristine wilderness. Counter with your facts to give your friends cover. Change the debate and win the battle.

Mike Turner, Vice President, Public Affairs, The MWW Group, East Rutherford, NJ

On face value, Americans will favor environmental preservation over the oil industry. Therefore, it would be vital to mitigate opposition to petroleum exploration in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, not just build support for it. It is also important to illustrate local support for exploration, as well as expand the debate to focus on the greater need, i.e. rising heating oil and gasoline prices and limiting dependence on foreign oil. This is particularly important among key committee members in Washington, DC. In addition, one would need to make environmental experts, as well as the proposed exploration area and other sensitive areas where exploration has already occurred, open to the media for tours and demonstrations of environmentally sensitive technologies.

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