Drilling in ANWR poses no threat to Arctic preserve

Sep 19, 2005 02:00 AM

by David Stone

Newspaper editorials often supply some good insight into specific problems. However, the editorial on Sept. 9 (“Say no to drilling for oil in refuge”) was the same old alarmist rhetoric we’ve been hearing for years, with Hurricane Katrina thrown in to up the scare factor.
The picture that was painted is woefully short on facts or insight.

First of all, the Alaska National Wildlife Refuge is an area covering more than 2 mm acres. The area where drilling is to be allowed consists of about 2,000 acres. And those 2,000 acres are not going to be “plundered” as the editorial states.
Modern drilling technologies are minimally invasive and do not produce “disastrous results.” In fact, the wildlife in the area of the existing pipeline on the North Slope has actually increased.

The ANWR is not going to be destroyed by drilling on less than 1/10 of 1 % of the land. Another argument stated in the editorial is that there is only a small amount of oil there anyway. Well, if that is true, then the “problem” will take care of itself.
Contrary to what was stated, Congress is not “insisting” that companies drill there. They are merely making it available. We are a capitalistic society. If there is such a limited amount of oil there, then no company is going to bother trying to get at it. At least not until prices get much higher than they are now.

It is hugely expensive to drill in Arctic areas so without the promise of a huge payoff, nobody is going to bother. A few years of oil isn’t going to do it. Now, of course, we need to develop other energy sources. But it takes many years and a ton of money to develop new technologies.
And any new source of energy will have to be as convenient as, and similar in cost to, oil or it will never be accepted on a large scale. Which means it will never be produced on a large scale. Why do you think that solar is still just a niche technology even after decades of development?

Environmentalist types seem to think that if we just shut off all the oil wells all these new sources of energy will magically come to life. It doesn’t work that way.
Unless we want a drastic lowering of our standard of living, we are going to need (relatively cheap) oil for years to come. There are some promising technologies on the horizon but none of them is ready for prime time. Drilling in the ANWR may buy us some more time to develop them.

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