Next month, the Bush White House will choose polar bears or oil derricks in the sea ice off the Alaska coast. The early betting, no surprise, shows a decided tilt toward drilling.
One arm of the Interior Department has set Feb. 6 for oil lease sales for 30 million acres of the Chukchi Sea off Alaska, where 20 percent of the world's 25,000 polar bears live.
But another Interior agency has taken the past year to study whether the bears should be declared threatened under the Endangered Species Act, a move that would hamper drilling. That study, due on Jan. 9, was delayed a month - several days after the planned oil lease sale.