Wednesday, February 01, 2006


Politicians love to decry our dependence on foreign oil and the high price of gas. The problem is that both of these things are a result of their own actions. We have plenty of domestic oil which is there for the drilling. However, environmentalists and their liberal allies have prevented us from using it. There is more oil in Alaska than in any middle-eastern country. We could end our reliance on foreign oil in two or three years by making full use of our own oil reserves on the gulf coast and in Alaska. Likewise, politicains blame oil companies for the high price of gas, but at the same time they keep increasing the gasoline taxes, and they let environmental lobbists block the construction of more refineries which would increase supply and drive down the price. As a result, no new refinery has been built in the United States for 28 years.

Drilling for oil in ANWR is the ideal way to reduce our dependence on foreign oil while we develop new energy sources to meet our longer-term needs. Hydrogen-powered cars and fusion power plants are still a decade or more away, and conservative estimates say that our oil reserves in ANWR would last 50 years. It is time to start using our own resources so that we are no longer beholden to people like Hugo Chavez or middle-eastern nations who take our oil money and use it to finance terror.

The reason that we have been prevented from drilling in ANWR is that environmental groups along with liberal politicians and the media have waged a very effective PR campaign to prevent it. From reading media accounts, the area where President Bush wants oil drilling to be conducted is a pristine wilderness, with snow-capped mountains, green meadows, sparkling rivers, and blue lakes surrounded by teeming wildlife. Here are a few photos from news stories about drilling in ANWR:

One of these photos is actually in ANWR, but not in the part of ANWR where they plan to drill. The others are not ANWR at all.

Here are photos of the area where they actually plan to drill:

It is an ice rink the size of South Carolina. Not a single one of the politicians who opposes drilling has actually been there. People who have spent a lot of time in the Alaskan wilderness report that the caribou congregate under the pipelines. They love the pipelines, and use them for shelter. In ANWR there is one dirt road which runs part way along one edge of the 29,600 square mile area. Roughly one tenth of one percent of the ANWR land area would be affected by drilling, leaving 29,560 square miles for the caribou. The ANWR web site says that there are two herds of caribou living there. Each one would have to make do with 14,780 square miles of land.

I wonder how quickly the environmentalists’ argument would last if people saw these pictures instead of what the media shows.


Michael said...

ANWR, just like any issue, is primarily a matter of how each side can tug at the heartstrings. But even so, there's a couple of problems with your assessment.

1) The oil reserves in ANWR represent a very small amount of oil in comparison to American consumption -- and certainly not enough to rid us of dependence on imports. The oil production we get from drilling ANWR is an order of magnitude less than oil savings we get from increasing gas mileage by an average of 2 MPG on every automobile.

2) The statistic of "square mileage affected" is misleading; it also matters how those square miles are distributed. If they're all sitting on one compact and contiguous block, it has less of an impact on the wildlife in the area than if the square mileage consists of small refineries distributed evenly over the area with pipes criss-crossing the landscape.

In any case, ANWR is a short-term solution at best, as is any other new drilling. Any long-term solution has to replace fossil fuels with nuclear and renewable power sources.

Don Dodson said...

In 1980 the US Geological Survey estimated that there are 19 billion barrels of oil and 34 trillion (that's with a "t") cubic feet of natural gas in ANWR.

More recent estimates are that 9 billion barrels of oil are recoverable.

According to the Department of Energy, American oil consumption is just over a billion barrels a year. The reserve in ANWR could provide 100% of our oil needs for 9 years. This is a whole lot more than one tenth of a 2 MPG improvement in gas mileage. Combined with our current production and possible new production along the gulf coast, it would be enough to greatly reduce our need to import oil.

You are right to say that this is a short-term solution. I said the same thing in my article -- it could provide for our energy needs while we develop better long-term energy sources.