Alaska's Northern Energy Slope

Michele Bachmann
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Posted: Jul 21, 2008 10:09 AM
On Sunday, my colleagues and I got to see firsthand the remote North Slope of Alaska where America needs to be increasing our production of oil to help bring gas costs down. It was quite an educational experience for all of as we got to take an in-depth look at current and emerging gas and oil technologies in the region.

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The day began north of the Arctic Circle at Prudhoe Bay where we got to view the oil production processes at the Endicott Production Facility located in the Arctic Ocean. We also visited Mile Marker Zero at Pump Station #1, the starting point of the Trans-Alaskan Pipeline.

From Prudhoe Bay we took an aerial tour of Alpine Field, where oil and gas production is underway, and parts of the National Petroleum Reserve-Alaska (NPR-A) currently being explored for potential oil production. We also took a flyover of offshore oil production facilities operating in the Arctic Ocean.

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Heading into the trip, I was most excited to see and learn about the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR), but more specifically, the “10-02 area” of ANWR. Officials in the North Slope confirmed for us that this area could provide an incredible amount of petroleum (10.4 billion barrels) with a minimal environmental footprint. ANWR in its entirety measures 19 million acres, but this one oil-rich location where we are interested in drilling is a mere 2,000 acres. To give you a better picture of what that means, the area for drilling is the size of a postage stamp on a football field.  

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Couple that fact with the convenient proximity of the 10-02 area to the Trans-Alaskan pipeline, and this area would provide us with the most convenient and efficient route to get more petroleum to the continental United States.

We were also warned by local officials that at its current rate of declining oil supplies, in 10 years the pipeline would be processing less than 300,000 barrels of oil per day, a sharp decline from the 720,000 being produced today. Without adding new supplies of oil to the pipeline, it would stop operating in just over 10 years because there aren’t enough supplies in the areas we’ve already tapped into to maintain its viability.

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Although many have been skeptical about the relationship between oil production and the surrounding wildlife and environment, we were given evidence that the two can co-exist. The best piece of evidence was the documented increase in size of a herd of native caribou near the Prudhoe Bay facilities. Since the facilities began its operations in the 1970s, the heard has increased its size from 5,000 to around 30,000 today.

This trip validated for all of us America’s urgent need to increase its supplies of oil to help drive costs down. This needs to happen not only in the areas we are currently exploring and operating in, like Prudhoe Bay and the NPR-A, but also in the 10-02 area of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. ANWR was set aside by President Carter for future oil development, so to keep it locked up makes no sense whatsoever.

If we couple increased oil production with the emerging technologies we witnessed at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory in Colorado, then our nation will be the world’s leader in energy innovation and no longer left to the whim of foreign exporters who often wish us harm. This is the All-of-the-Above strategy that Republicans have put forth to the American people. The only thing we’ve heard from the Democrats is “Drive Less, Pay More.”

We have two weeks left until our August recess and the Democratic leadership continues to play games while gas costs rise throughout the nation. If we move to increase supplies here domestically, prices will begin to come down on that fact alone. If we have it, we better use it, and the majority of Americans agree.