"I think it's a great idea," Ryun said Friday, addressing a noon meeting of the Lawrence Chamber of Commerce at the Hereford House, 4931 W. Sixth St.
Environmentalists oppose drilling within the refuge. The risk of spills, they say, far outweighs the benefits of tapping a supply that would meet U.S. demand for about six months.
But Ryun said the refuge has enough oil to reduce U.S. reliance on oil from Saudi Arabia for 20 years, adding that modern technology has all but eliminated the threat of oil spills.
Ryun, whose daughter, Heather, lives in Alaska, said the drilling actually may benefit wildlife, noting that in the summertime, elk often stand beneath the Trans-Alaskan Oil Pipeline to take advantage of the breeze.
The breeze, he said, "help keep the mosquitos off."
Ryun's comments surprised Joyce Wolf, past president of Lawrence's Jayhawk Audubon Society.
"I don't know where he's getting his information," Wolf said. "Everything I've seen on this shows that we'd be a lot better off producing cars that are more energy efficient. I mean, you see all these people driving these big SUVs that are getting 11 miles (a gallon) in the city, 17 on the highway."
Switching topics, Ryun said he doesn't like the McCain-Feingold campaign finance bill, which the Senate passed in April. The bill calls for banning so-called soft money, raising the current $1,000 limit on individual contributions to $2,000 and restricting independent groups' ability to advertise during election campaigns.
The bill, Ryun said, has the potential for "damaging our First Amendment rights" to free speech. A better alternative, he said, is for people to be honest and obey the laws now on the books.
Ryan said he was proud of his recent success in introducing bills to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the U.S. Supreme Court's Brown v. Topeka Board of Education, and to give the military dependents the right to chose their own doctor for prenatal, delivery and postnatal care.
Both bills passed the House overwhelmingly and are now in the Senate.
A member of the House budget committee, Ryun assured Chamber members that even after setting aside $2.9 trillion to preserve Social Security and Medicare, the government still has "a significant surplus."
This surplus, he said, allowed Congress to this year eliminate the so-called death tax and marriage penalty, increase tax-free Income Retirement Account contributions, create tax-free savings accounts for education, and give taxpayers a $40 billion rebate.
Single taxpayers, Ryun said, will get checks for about $300; single parents who head the household will get about $500. Married couples, he said, will get as much as $600.
The Internal Revenue Service will be mailing checks in about six weeks, according to a schedule defined by the last two numbers in taxpayers' Social Security numbers. A copy of the schedule is available on Ryun's Web site, wwwa.house.gov/ryun/Other/BushFinalTaxLaw.htm
-- Staff writer Dave Ranney can be reached at 832-7222.