April 26, 2002

April 26, 2002 | News Releases on Energy and Environment

Study: ANWR, More Reserves Crucial to Cutting US Oil Dependence

WASHINGTON, Apr. 26, 2002-The United States must take steps to reduce its growing dependence on foreign oil, such as opening a portion of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to oil exploration and filling the Strategic Petroleum Reserve, a new Heritage Foundation paper says.

Although the Senate recently rejected a proposal that would have allowed oil drilling in ANWR-after the House of Representatives accepted it last year-the White House should work to revive it as both houses begin trying to reconcile their energy bills, say Heritage experts Charli Coon and James Phillips.

Otherwise, U.S. dependence on foreign oil can only increase, they say. In 2000, the United States imported 53 percent of its oil, up from 35 percent when the 1973 Arab embargo was at its height. The Energy Department estimates that amount will rise to 62 percent by 2020, with ever-larger quantities being drawn from the volatile Persian Gulf-from 2.2 million barrels per day in 2000 to 4.2 million barrels in 2020.

"Americans would be paying even more today for gasoline if Arab states had followed Iraq's lead in threatening to cut production as a political weapon against Israel," the analysts say.

Rather than let America remain vulnerable to oil extortion, the analysts recommend, the government must draw more oil from secure areas. One such area, ANWR, is described by the Energy Department as "the largest unexplored, potentially productive onshore basin in the United States."

The government should also fill the Strategic Petroleum Reserve, which today contains a little over half its maximum capacity of 1 billion barrels, the Heritage analysts say. "The greatest benefit of having a stockpile may be its mere existence, which would make it harder for hostile states to blackmail the United States by cutting back on oil production," they write.

Fortunately, Coon and Phillips say, non-OPEC oil supplies are rising. More than half of the total North American imports in 2020 are expected from the Atlantic Basin, with a significant increase in crude oil imports from such nations as Canada, Brazil, Colombia, Mexico and Venezuela. More oil also is expected from producers in West Africa and the Caspian Sea region.

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