Alaskan Drilling: Small Area, Big Potential
Created on July 30, 2008
Why We Should Drill in Alaska's
- For a warning against repeating old energy mistakes, click
- To read why supplies should trump new taxes or rules, click
- To learn how speculators help at the gas pump, click
- For an op-ed on the uphill battle to drill, click here.
America's single greatest concentration
of untapped oil -- an estimated 10 billion barrels -- lies at the
northern edge of Alaska's 19 million-acre Arctic National Wildlife
That amount of oil is the equivalent of 15 years
of imports from Saudi Arabia. At a million barrels a day, the
production potential of this oil-rich sliver of Alaska rivals the combined output of 41 states, according to
the Institute for Energy Research.
technology have dramatically reduced the environmental impact and
risk of spills since 1980, when Congress and President Carter set
aside 1.5 million acres of coastal plain in ANWR and directed the
government to assess its energy potential.
Nearly 30 years
later, Americans are paying about $4 a gallon for gasoline and the
nation depends more than ever on Middle Eastern oil. With the
approval of Congress, though, commercial leasing of this frozen,
otherwise barren acreage -- already reserved for energy production
-- could begin.
"We need fewer restrictions on domestic oil
drilling," says Ben
Lieberman, Heritage's senior policy analyst for energy and the
environment. "America remains the only oil-producing nation that
places a substantial amount of its energy potential
Drilling for oil and
gas would occur within a 2,000-acre limit at ANWR -- a tiny .01
percent of the refuge -- and be subject to the world's strictest
standards, Lieberman stresses.
Oil production to the
west of ANWR at Prudhoe Bay, initiated in 1977 with less
ecologically friendly technology than is required today,
has had minimal adverse effect on the local environment and
wildlife, he notes.
More oil waits to be
found in restricted areas throughout the United States, as well as
in the 85 percent of the Outer Continental Shelf where drilling
can't occur unless Congress -- following President Bush's recent
lead -- lifts a ban.
19 billion barrels of oil could be pumped from these offshore
sites, the Department of the Interior estimates -- the
equivalent of 30 more years of imports from Saudi Arabia. Again,
today's technological advances minimize the risk of spills.
were put to the test by the brutal winds and waves of Hurricane
Katrina, which tore through the only area where offshore drilling
is common but
didn't cause a single significant spill," Lieberman writes.