“We can’t drill our way out of our energy problem.” This daily mantra, mostly from Democrats, underscores an abysmal grasp of economics by the politicians, activists, bureaucrats and judges who are dictating US policies. If only their hot air could be converted into usable energy.
Drilling is no silver bullet. But it is vital. It won’t generate overnight production. But just announcing that America is finally hunting oil again would send a powerful signal to energy markets … and to speculators – many of whom are betting that continued US drilling restrictions will further exacerbate the global demand-supply imbalance, and send “futures” prices even higher.
Pro-drilling policies would likely bring lower prices, as did recent announcements that Brazil had found new offshore oil fields and Iraq would sign contracts to increase oil production. Conversely, news that supplies are tightening – because of sabotage in Nigeria’s delta region, or more congressional bans on leasing – will send prices upward.
One of our best prospects is Alaska’s Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, which geologists say contains billions of barrels of recoverable oil. If President Clinton hadn’t bowed to Wilderness Society demands and vetoed 1995 legislation, we’d be producing a million barrels a day from ANWR right now. That’s equal to US imports from Saudi Arabia, at $50 billion annually.
Drilling in ANWR would get new oil flowing in 5-10 years, depending on how many lawsuits environmentalists file. That’s far faster than benefits would flow from supposed alternatives: devoting millions more acres of cropland to corn or cellulosic ethanol, converting our vehicle fleet to hybrid and flex-fuel cars, building dozens of new nuclear power plants, and blanketing thousands of square miles with wind turbines and solar panels. These alternatives would take decades to implement, and all face political, legal, technological, economic and environmental hurdles.
ANWR is the size of South Carolina. Its narrow coastal plain is frozen and windswept most of the year. Wildlife flourish amid drilling and production in other Arctic regions, and would do so near ANWR facilities. Inuits who live there know this, and support drilling by an 8:1 margin. Gwich’in Indians who oppose drilling live hundreds of miles away – and have leased and drilled their own tribal lands, including caribou migratory routes.
Drilling and production operations would impact only 2,000 acres – to produce 15 billion gallons of oil annually. Saying this tiny footprint would spoil the refuge is like saying a major airport along South Carolina’s northern border would destroy the state’s scenery and wildlife.
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