Sunday, August 3, 2008

My Take on Drilling In ANWR

There is a lot of talk these days about the coming energy crisis facing America. T. Boone Pickens, oil magnate, has made headlines for calling for an “all of the above” approach to finding and using energy within America to stop us from being dependant on foreign oil. (Funny side note, you will usually only hear about his big investment in wind farms, not about his calls for nuclear energy or drilling wherever possible).

One of the areas highlighted in the media and by Mr. Pickens is the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR) region in Alaska. This is a touchy subject for some people, and as all touchy subjects inevitably accrue, there are reams of misinformation out in the zeitgeist regarding this issue. For instance, you have some people claiming that the whole “ANWR as solution” mindset is dead wrong. They claim the impact on oil prices would only occur far in the future and would be negligible at best. They also warn of a huge environmental impact. On the other hand, others argue that the naysayers are being either sloppy in their knowledge, or looking at the question of drilling in a distorted way.

I have to say, I am all for drilling in the ANWR region. In fact, I back Mr. Pickens approach completely. I say we need it all – oil, nuclear, wind, solar, and all sorts of renewable sources of energy. I believe that the opposition to drilling is mostly due to Big Environment. I tend to believe that since the natives of the area welcome drilling, as long as the operation is subject to oversight in regards to the environmental impact, it should go forward.

Researching this topic, I have come to find that most opponents of drilling in ANWR end up making the argument that “drilling only in ANWR will not have the desired effect on the price on oil/gas.” Well, no, I suppose it wouldn’t. Not if you want the price of oil back under $90 a barrel and the price of gas back under $2 a gallon. But drilling in ANWR is a part of the solution to cheaper energy, and saying otherwise is simply bone-headed. And, as Kay Hutchinson points out, with expected energy consumption to rise worldwide (inevitably), why would we not use energy sources wherever, and however, we might find them? In other words, isn’t there a high opportunity cost to NOT drill in ANWR?

It is fine for the Gulf Stream Greens to talk about how precious the pristine landscape of ANWR is, and how it serves a very important ecological service as a mating and birthing area for many species. Well and dandy. And if that were the argument, that’s fine by me. Let the American people decide what they want: cheaper gas or a “pristine” tundra. Well, it looks like they have decided which way they are leaning! Still, we are told that drilling won’t have any meaningful effect, the natives don’t want it, it would be a disaster for the environment, and drilling would lengthen our dependency on those evil fossil fuels.

Well, America will continue to run on fossil fuels for the next couple of decades, at the least, and it seems foolish to not exploit what resources we have on our land. One last absurdity: some would have you believe that exploration and drilling opens up a potential ecological nightmare, a la the Exxon-Valdez case. But what really causes “pollution” (with regards to oil) on Earth? Why it might be the Earth itself!

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