Supply = Security
So, we've arrived at halftime in the big game for America's energy
Right now, the game is tied. The House of Representatives has
approved legislation that includes a provision to explore for oil
in Alaska's Arctic National Wildlife Reserve. The Senate's version
does not. The first major energy bill in 10 years has advanced to a
House-Senate conference committee, and the outcome will dictate how
America meets its energy needs for the next generation.
The stakes are Super Bowl-high. The United States imports 53
percent of its oil today. It uses nearly a fourth of the world's
oil-mostly because it generates nearly a fourth of the world's
goods and services. Absent a big shot in the arm of domestic
supply, the Energy Information Agency predicts the United States
will import 64 percent of its oil by 2020 and even more as time
Those who oppose drilling in ANWR … well, let's back up a
second. Actually, what they oppose is drilling in Section 1002 of
ANWR. That's all that's been proposed. They oppose establishing one
2,000-acre footprint-about the size of a big-city airport. That
area sits in a 1.5-million-acre portion of the 19.5 million-acre
refuge. Although just a fraction of the entire reserve, the area
that includes 1002 is larger than South Carolina. No matter what
happens at Section 1002, the 17.5 million acres that form the
balance of ANWR-a legitimate national treasure-would remain
untouched by this exploration.
And the part that would be touched? It's a flat, treeless area that
is solid ice all winter and mosquito-ridden swamp the other 70 days
of the year. The area endures 58 straight days of darkness each
year, during which temperatures can hit 70 below zero. Jonah
Goldberg, an editor at "National Review Online" who went to the
area, writes: "If you wanted a picture to go with the word
'Godforsaken' in the dictionary, ANWR would do nicely."
Moreover, the area's 1,500 inhabitants-who have seen their
neighbors to the near north become economically comfortable from a
quarter-century of safe, clean oil exploration at the Prudhoe Bay,
Sourdough and Kuparuk oil fields-support drilling by 4 to 1.
Give an inch, and oil prospectors will take a mile, argue the
opponents. But this argument ignores the fact that federal law
prohibits exploration beyond the 1.5-million-acre zone closest to
the Beaufort Sea. As a practical matter, modern drilling techniques
make creating an above-ground operation larger than the 2,000 acres
Yes, the oil must be transported out, but fears about the damage
pipelines do to their environs have been disproved. When the
pipeline opened from Prudhoe Bay on the north slope to Valdez in
the south, alarmists predicted a quick end for the porcupine
caribou herds that inhabit the area. In fact, their number has
tripled in the 25 years the pipeline has operated.
But the larger point is that America needs to decrease its
dependence on our current suppliers of fuel by maximizing our own
production and finding new sources. Look where we have to go in the
world for oil-Saudi Arabia, which uses much of the money to fund
schools that preach hate against its No.1 customer for crude;
Nigeria, a famously unstable country fighting its own internal
battle with radical Islam; Iran, which calls us the Great Satan;
Russia, with whom our relationship remains less than ideal, and
Iraq, where various terrorists seem committed to creating chaos for
It's more than just the difficulties that face our oil companies.
Energy supply is a security issue. And the oil in ANWR would buy a
lot of security. Experts say the area has 10.3 billion
barrels-perhaps more-of quality crude. That's more than twice what
we get from Texas and about seven times what we get from Louisiana,
Oklahoma and Wyoming combined.
The more we produce ourselves, the less we have to rely on
unstable and often unfriendly countries around the world. We won't
be free until we get to the point where we don't need these
countries anymore. One day, perhaps we can make up the difference
with hydrogen, solar or other sources of power. But for now, what
we need is oil. ANWR has it … lots of it. And it's time we
start to pump it.
is a senior
analyst for energy and the environment at The Heritage Foundation.