Friday, December 02, 2005


You know how sometimes the world gets wrapped up controversies that, when you look at it, really aren’t controversial at all, but instead are just a window of the state of mind of the people involved. Sorta like all the anticipation of the verdict in the Scott Peterson trial.

ANWR is like that.

Even though we all consume energy every day, according to some people we should all just pretend that it comes from the energy tooth fairy, because anything involved with the real production of energy is too dirty to be associated with. Or to be precise, it may cause negative environmental impact for one of the herds of caribou that roam northern Alaska.

It is supposed to be obvious why this is a bad thing, but I’m not sure why. I don’t eat caribou. I don’t hunt them, I don’t drink milk from them, I don’t keep them as pets. Nobody else does either, as far as I know. But somehow, out of all the living things of Creation, these particular caribou has to be protected from the spoiling of their habitat.

And surely, if we just drilled an oilfield right in the middle of their habitat, that would sure be the end of the caribou, right? No, actually. The oil companies are only going to drill on a very small part of ANWR, and will not hurt the caribou. But that’s just a bunch of oil company hype, right? No. Prudhoe Bay was opened up to oil exploration 20 years ago, with no adverse effect to wildlife there.

Some people say there’s not enough oil there to make a difference. That’s really rich. It’s as though they wouldn’t deign to pick up a $100 dollar bill lying on the floor because it’s not enough money to solve their lifetime economic needs.

It is true that the amount of oil available for drilling from ANWR is not enough to supply world’s energy needs for the forseeable future, or to end United States energy dependence on foreign nations. But it’s not exactly insignificant either. Let’s say that if ANWR were online right now, it would produce 1.5m bbls/day of oil (that’s a fairly conventional estimate, btw). That would be roughly 2% of current world production of 70m bbls/day. And given the amount of excess capacity in the oil market today, that would be a very useful thing to have. All of this, let’s emphasize, is from one undeveloped oilfield. How on earth do those who oppose ANWR suppose that our energy needs will ever be met if we refuse to tap the easiest source of oil we will ever likely see?

Check out the links below.

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