Worried About Fuel Prices?

ANWR Equals 30 Years of Saudi Oil

Arctic Power
April 01, 2001

ANWR = 30 years of Secure Oil & Gas Supplies

Rising Prices: America’s homes and businesses have experienced dramatic spikes in their electric bills and the prices they pay for gasoline, heating oil and diesel fuel. Public service agencies have cut vital services to pay skyrocketing energy bills. Prices for everything from airline tickets to consumable goods are being recalculated to capture these increased costs. Policy analysts say relief will not come soon enough.

Shrinking Supply: Consumers have good reason to be worried about the future. They worry about our growing dependence on foreign oil imports—now nearing 60% of total supply. They fear the loss of mobility, of not being able to go where they want, when they want. They fear a repeat of the 1970s gas lines and price volatility, and the likelihood of brownouts and blackouts at home. Will there be another war with foreign suppliers? Americans now realize the growing costs of energy can gravely affect their livelihoods, their sense of security, their savings and investments. They demand to know why this situation exists, what can be done about it, and who will do it.

Solutions Sought: There are, unfortunately, no quick fixes. The fundamental problem is that national energy policy, largely fashioned by groups opposed to fossil fuel use, has seriously jeopardized industry’s ability to meet energy needs in a timely fashion. This failed, shortsighted policy has ignored abundant U.S. energy resources while encouraging foreign countries to produce more oil for the United States. Last year alone the U.S. bought more than $120 billion worth of imported oil while exporting thousands upon thousands of American jobs. This has resulted in huge spinoff costs to consumers and our economy.

The time to balance energy, economic and environmental concerns is long past due. It is up to the nation’s policymakers, from local and state elected officials to Congress and the President, to resolve this growing crisis. It is their responsibility to find solutions, in concert with energy conservation, and we must hold them to it. While we will always rely on substantial levels of imports, increased domestic production will provide needed leverage to negotiate from strength with foreign producers.

Alaska’s Role: Policy leaders now realize our government must reconsider rules that prevent industry’s exploring for oil and gas in America’s most promising locations. Obviously, Alaska’s Arctic is one such place. Both government and industry experts recognize the non-park area of ANWR, its coastal plain, as the single most promising unexplored region for major oil and gas discoveries.

Developing this tiny sliver of land, which would impact but two thousand acres (the size of a regional airport) of the 20-million acre refuge, could yield up to 16 billion barrels of oil. This would equate to 30 years of Middle East imports, and possibly more.

(The North Slope, originally thought to contain nine billion barrels of oil, has to date produced 13 billion barrels.) With new technology, production could occur sooner than expected. While the last major Arctic oil field took just seven years to bring on line, companies project it can be done in five years—assuming no delaying lawsuits—as opposed to the ten years claimed by development opponents.

America’s Environmentalists: More than 75% of Alaskans support careful energy exploration in ANWR, including the Inupiat Eskimos who live in ANWR’s coastal plain and have been stewards of the land for centuries. They’ve seen the Prudhoe Bay caribou herds grow nine times larger in the 34 years since oil was discovered there, and the environment negligibly affected. They’ve seen oil produced under the world’s strictest environmental standards, and Alaskans would have it no other way. (Some Canadian and Alaskan Gwich’in Indians, who live outside the Refuge, opposed ANWR exploration only after Exxon and BP let their leases on Gwich’in tribal lands expire.)

Oil and Gas vs. Wind and Solar Energy: A nationally organized advocacy effort seeks to prohibit oil and gas exploration in key prospective areas. Proponents favor using renewable energy resources instead, particularly wind and solar systems, believing they are more environmentally benign and less polluting. While increased use of home solar systems would likely be well received by communities, their cost (about $20,000 for a 2,000 sq. ft. home) is out of reach for typical homeowners. At the community level, it would be difficult to overstate the complexities of siting, permitting, legal challenges and construction problems associated with large commercial wind or solar installations.

Paul K. Driessen of Fairfax, Virginia calculates that producing 50 megawatts of electricity from photovoltaics would mean covering 1,000 acres with solar panels. To produce the same amount of electricity with wind towers (100-200 feet high) would require some 4,000 acres. By comparison, less than half an acre would be required to produce 50 megawatts of electricity from oil, or 2 to 5 acres for natural gas.

The noise, access roads, visual blight and wildlife impacts from wind turbines would be unacceptable to nearby residents. To transmit electricity to urban areas, wind and solar farms would have to be linked to miles of high-tension power lines; and fossil-fuel generators would still be required to supplement intermittent power generation.

Access: With projected energy shortfalls, access to public lands is critical for fossil fuel exploration, production and pipelines, as well as for staging areas for wind, solar and other non-fuel resources. Americans are now recognizing the need for choices among a combination of all energy resources that, along with energy conservation, will assure progress and prosperity over coming decades.




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