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ANWR: What are we waiting for?

Illustration by Josh Hagler

By Shane Dale
Arizona Daily Wildcat
Tuesday Jan. 22, 2002

When George W. Bush was sworn in as president a year and a couple of days ago, I figured that exploring for oil in the Alaska National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR) would soon follow. Yet, here we are, January 2002, and still nothing. Why?

Even with the standard partisan bickering and switch of power in the Senate last year, the fact that ANWR is still untapped is absurd, especially considering the events of 2001.

Not only has Sept. 11 reminded us why remaining largely dependent on foreign sources of oil is dangerous, but drilling in ANWR will help somewhat alleviate the exploding unemployment rate in America.

In 1973, the U.S. obtained 36 percent of its oil from foreign sources; that figure rose to 46 percent by 1991 and is now up to 55 percent. At this rate, it is possible that we could be at the mercy of the rest of the world to supply us with two-thirds of our oil needs by 2010. And as of last year, America was purchasing foreign oil at a rate of over 55 billion dollars a year - over 15 billion dollars more than last year's tax rebate.

A 1998 U.S. Geological Survey found that anywhere from 5.7 to 16 billion barrels of oil could be retrieved and refined from ANWR. Taking an average of the estimates, a recovery of 10 to 11 billion barrels, this would replace the oil we receive from Saudi Arabia - which accounts for 17 percent of our foreign sources a year - for the next 30 years.

No, ANWR is not the ultimate solution to our foreign dependency, but it would sure as hell make a huge dent in it.

Environmentalists warn of the harm to the wildlife refuge that would occur as a result of the drilling. They should take comfort in the fact that technology in this area has improved dramatically since we last explored for oil in Alaska. The area needed for exploration in ANWR is 64 percent less land than what was needed to explore in Alaska's Prudhoe Bay less than 20 years ago.

ANWR is roughly the size of South Carolina, and the drilling site equals the size of an airport. Less than 1 percent of the refuge would be touched. The proposed site isn't anywhere near a city or town, and the caribou would be just fine.

What are we waiting for?

So many elected Democrats remain opposed to drilling domestically. Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., appeared on Fox News Channel's "The O'Reilly Factor" on Dec. 11 and stated that America should not touch ANWR. Rather, we should look to drill in other areas of the world, such as Mexico, where there is an abundance of untapped, non-OPEC regulated oil. This sentiment seems to be shared by a lot of people.

I don't get this; I really don't. The eagerness to drill (or in environmentalist terms, plunder) in nations other than our own is selfish. It is hypocritical for the left to warn us of "excessive patriotism," not thinking outside our own borders in a time of war, etc., and yet totally dismiss the idea of exploring untapped sources of oil in America in favor of drilling elsewhere. What makes international land less sacred than our own?

Not everyone on the left, however, is opposed to drilling in ANWR. Why? Because of the jobs to be had.

The president of the Teamsters Union - a man by the name of Hoffa - wants to drill. James Hoffa, son of the infamous mobster and presumed dead Jimmy Hoffa, says that drilling in Alaska will create hundreds of thousands of jobs for his union, not to mention for many other Americans as well. And he's right. A study by Wharton Econometrics Forecasting Associates confirmed that between 250,000 and 736,000 new American jobs would be formed by tapping ANWR, mainly in the fields of manufacturing, mining, trade and construction.

This would help put so many unemployed Americans back to work. And as we all know, no one screws with the union. Capisce?

Look, I know we have a lot of things to consider when it comes to creating energy. I'm all for further exploring alternative sources of fuel and imposing a reasonable increase in gas mileage for SUVs. But environmentalists have to be willing to meet us halfway on this one.

The oil recovered from ANWR would not be ready to be used for another seven to 10 years. That's why it's important to start now. Right now, the future looks very uncertain. America needs to be as ready as possible.

Let's go get that oil.


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