Congress should shun Hollywood’s advice in vote on Alaskan oil
by Paul K. Driessen
Knight Ridder/Tribune Information Services
WASHINGTON, DC, April 2003 ¾ As if we needed it, this year’s somewhat subdued Academy Awards ceremony again reminded us how out-of-touch Hollywood is with America and reality.
After hectoring us about saving energy, the glitterati arrived for their big night in a long stream of limousines and SUVs. Then, from their podium, they hurled a litany of invective about Iraq and President Bush – with nary a word about the Butcher of Baghdad.
Now, as Congress again debates whether to allow oil drilling in Alaska’s Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR), Tinseltown and the $3-billion-a-year U.S. environmental industry are again demanding that we not even consider “despoiling” this area for the sake of “few months worth of oil.”
So far, they’ve managed to convince a bare majority of the Senate to reject exploratory drilling. As the issue heads to conference between House and Senate negotiators, perhaps a few facts will generate more careful thinking. Consider, if you will that:
· America runs on abundant, reliable, affordable energy. With it, we power a quarter of the entire global economy, confront tyrants, feed starving people worldwide, and ensure that even our poorest citizens live better than kings did 100 years ago. But today we import 58 percent of the oil we use –compared to just 25 percent before the OPEC oil embargo in the 1973. That’s because domestic production continues to decline, largely because Congress has made most of our best prospects off limits to appease the environmental lobby.
· With few exceptions, any onshore or offshore area with oil or gas potential has been closed off. The public’s right to know what’s there, to make informed decisions about whether to find and produce the energy we need – is simply ignored. But every gallon we don’t produce in the U.S. is a gallon we have to import –often from countries that support terrorism. It’s a gallon in hard-won energy conservation and renewable energy efforts wasted.
· Government geologists say ANWR alone could hold 6-16 billion barrels of recoverable oil. That comes out to a range of 11 to 30 years’ of imports from Saudi Arabia. Turned into gasoline, it would power California’s cars, trucks and limos for up to 50 years. And that’s with old technology. Modern exploration, drilling and production techniques could double this production, and keep the nearby Prudhoe Bay oil fields pumping another decade or more.
· ANWR’s oil would be produced from sites totaling less than 2,000 acres. That’s one-twentieth the size of Washington, DC– in a refuge the size of South Carolina. Alaska, our largest state – already has more designated wilderness than the combined acreage of Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Maryland and West Virginia.
· Drilling would be done in the winter, using ice airstrips, roads and platforms that melt when spring arrives. The coastal plain is hardly a “crown jewel.” The beautiful mountains seen in all the misleading anti-drilling ads are actually 50 miles away. The potentially oil-rich area is nothing more than a flat, treeless stretch of tundra. During the 8-month winter, it’s virtually devoid of wildlife. In the summer, caribou return, along with fox, birds, and vast swarms of vicious flies and mosquitoes. Even if drilling takes place, the caribou would do just what they have for 25 years in Prudhoe Bay: eat, hang out and make babies. That’s why Prudhoe’s caribou have increased from 5,000 in 1974 to 32,000 last year.
The Eskimos who live in ANWR know all this, which is why they support drilling.
The Gwich’in Indians, who oppose drilling, live 140 miles away and seem to have no problems with drilling on their own lands. They leased nearly every acre they own back in the 1980s and didn’t even include provisions to protect caribou. Sadly, they didn’t find any oil. Now they’re planning to drill and build a pipeline along the caribou migratory route in Canada.
Environmentalists and Tinseltowners gripe about pollution – never bothering to mention that most of the “oil spills” at Prudhoe Bay are really salt water, and most of the actual oil spills amount to a little more than a few gallons. Meanwhile, they say nothing about Saddam’s latest oil well fires or the 2-billion gallons of oil he deliberately dumped into the Persian Gulf and Kuwaiti desert in 1991.
But few in the media or La-La Land seem willing to call this what it is: a flagrant display of hypocrisy. Americans can only hope that the next Congressional vote on ANWR will be for common sense, honesty and national energy security.