ANWR not the answer |

ANWR not the answer

(This letter was originally sent to senators Ben Nighthorse Campbell and Wayne Allard.)

Last week in Anchorage, Ak., George Bush said, “We all remember the blackouts and the sky-high energy bills of recent summer.” He made a similar statement in San Jose, Calif., and it’s all in reference to why we need to drill in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR) and that the oil from ANWR is necessary for electricity.

Scott McInnis made a similar statement in a letter to me. He said, “As you know, America is now facing an energy crisis, with the focus on California. One of the places that has been considered for exploration of energy is ANWR.”

Now consider this. First, less than 1 percent of California’s and only 3 percent of U.S. electrical energy comes from oil. So even if we had ANWR’S oil two summers ago, it would not have made any difference.

So George Bush and Scott McInnis are exaggerating our need to drill in ANWR for our electrical energy needs.

Second, in reference to “sky high-energy bills,” please note that the amount of oil in ANWR is only one-third of 1 percent of the total amount of oil in Saudi Arabia. So we could have 10 ANWR-like sites and we still would not have any control of the oil market prices!

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Besides these figures, oil is just not a factor in the cost of electricity since so little of electrical energy comes from oil.

Bush has found support in Alaska for his “balanced, comprehensive and aggressive energy plan.” This is because Alaska has spent $5 million to convince the American people and Congress that it’s in the nation’s best interest to drill in ANWR.

Of that $5 million, a total of $3.85 million was spent just last year. Last week they spent about $1million. Why is this?

Because at present they get $1,900-plus a year per person from oil royalties. That adds up to a whopping $7,600 for a family of four! On top of that, oil royalties pay for 84 percent of the state government’s operating costs. Is it any wonder they want oil drilling in ANWR?

The oil companies, too, are spending $6 million in public relations. Why? Because they’re going to get a major part of the $30 billion-plus in subsidies that will go to this fossil fuel development.

Right now, oil prices are quite good, so why do the oil companies need a subsidy at all? The reality is that Alaska and the oil companies have big financial gains to be made by drilling in ANWR, and that’s the only reason they are pushing so hard to drill in ANWR. Similar to the tobacco industry’s old standby tactic, Alaskans and the oil companies will say anything to get at that money.

Bush said, “Alaskans know firsthand that modern technology allows us to bring oil to the surface cleanly and safely, while protecting our environment and wildlife.”

If that’s true then why are there 400 major spills annually? From 1995 to 2000 there has been 1.5 million gallons of oil, diesel fuel, acids and other toxic chemicals spilled.

Scott McInnis said, “Experts have told us that exploration can occur on a few thousand acres while the rest of the 19 million acres will be completely left alone.” Wrong again, because it’s actually going to be the 1.5 million acres that comprise the entire coastal plain where the oil is potentially located.

These “few thousand acres” are dispersed throughout this 1.5 million acres so there’s certainly going to be a major impact on this whole coastal plain.

Initial government reports claim that it will create about 750,000 jobs but more recent reports have indicated it’s more like 26,000 to 55,000 jobs, at the most. Why not create these jobs in the research and development of alternative energies that will truly have an effect on our decreased dependence on foreign oil, and thus our national security?

Alaska’s Sen. Murkowski says ANWR has 16 billion barrels of oil. Well that’s possible but not probable.

According to government reports, there is only a 5 percent possibility of 12 billion to 16 billion barrels of oil, but a 95 percent chance of as little as 3.2 billion to 4 billion barrels.

A little history about Sen. Murkowski shows that 37 percent of his campaign funds come from the energy industry. Then there’s all those royalties Alaska gets. He might just be a little biased when reporting his figures.

Now for some oil facts: We import 56 percent of our oil. We consume 25 percent of the world’s oil (Bush states that our consumption will rise by 33 percent over the next 20 years). We produce only 7.6 percent of the world’s oil and we only have 2.8 percent of the world’s oil reserve.

ANWR oil will boost this percent by very, very little – remember, only one-third of 1 percent. If we want to concentrate on national security and less dependence on foreign oil, we would do better to look for better fuel efficiency.

Transportation accounts for two-thirds of our oil consumption. Forty percent of our overall oil consumption is by passenger cars alone, yet we have not changed our fuel efficiency standard since 1985.

Passenger cars average 27.5 miles per gallon while light trucks and sport utility vehicles average less than 20.7 miles per gallon. With our present technology we can boost gas mileage by 75 percent to 40 miles per gallon without compromising car safety.

It will take the oil companies 10 years to extract oil from ANWR. With better fuel efficiency and within that same time frame, we could save as much oil as we could ever pump from ANWR. In 20 years it’s possible to raise the mileage to 70 miles per gallon with even greater saving, not just in oil but in your pocketbook.

If you are interested in national security and financial security and you look at these figures, you have to admit there is no way that we can drill our way to security – not even close. But we could make it in the national interest to develop alternative energy sources and better fuel efficiency.

You might say it’s too early and it’s not economically feasible, but if you wait until it is, then you’re too late. The government should provide funding and tax incentives for research and development of alternative energies.

And it should give tax breaks to encourage people to be more efficient while taxing the ones that use excessive energy. It would be a lot better to put the $30-plus billion in subsidies into alternative energy and increased fuel efficiency rather than putting it into fossil fuels.

Tom Merrill