We should reduce oil need, not drill for more in Alaska


Drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge is one sub-issue of the overall energy policy debate in America. As politicians see the situation, we can either 1) import more oil from other nations, 2) decrease our need for oil by becoming fuel efficient or 3) increasing our own output of oil in places such as Alaska.

Republicans and Democrats agree that increasing our demand for foreign oil is out of the question, which leaves two possibilities.

On the right, Republicans say more areas in northern Alaska should be explored, including protected areas. On the left, decreasing demand and becoming more conservative with use is seen as the answer.

The Arctic National Wildlife Refuge was originally established as the Arctic Range in 1960 under President Dwight Eisenhower. He set aside the 8.9 million-acre Arctic Range for its wilderness, wildlife and recreational values by executive proclamation.

In 1980, Congress created the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. It closed 1.5 million acres of the coastal plain to gas and oil exploration unless specifically authorized by Congress. Today, most of northern Alaska is open to drilling. The area that the oil industry would like to tap is seen by conservationists as the biological heart of ANWR. It is an area that is essential for the survival of 160 migratory birds, polar bears, porcupine caribou and other species of animals.

It is also essential for the survival of the Gwich’in Indians, one of the world’s few remaining subsistence cultures.

If Congress opened ANWR to drilling today, it would be at least ten years before oil could be collected. This is because infrastructure would have to be built; roads, pipes, buildings, waste pits and other things.

Even if it is opened up, the price of gas would not go down because OPEC controls the price of oil worldwide and this oil would be sold on the world market. This means most of it would never reach American gas stations.

The USGS (United States Geological Survey) has estimated ten billion barrels in the reserve. That’s enough to serve our needs for about 16 months. The U.S. uses 26 percent of the oil produced in the world, yet we have less than ten percent of the population. The Energy Information Administration says the United States produced 9.8 million barrels of oil a day in the year 2002, making us the world’s leading producer of oil.

More drilling is not a long- term solution, in some respects, not even a solution.

The only way to change this energy problem is by reducing our need. Increasing CAFE standards so that our vehicles are more fuel efficient and increased use of bio-diesel and ethanol, something our Senators have been fighting hard for, will reduce our need.

When it comes down to it, drilling in ANWR is a bad idea. In fact, the majority of the public is opposed to drilling.

The ones that seem to benefit are the oil-barons in the White House and their special interest friends.

Reach Josh Horton at [email protected]