NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis


December 6, 2004

Environmental lobbyists opposed to oil production on public lands claim that the oil in Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR) equals only a six-month supply. This is true, however, only if one imagines that the United States stopped using oil from any other source -- no imports, no domestic production, nothing else -- which is unrealistic, says H. Sterling Burnett, a senior fellow with the National Center for Policy Analysis.

  • The Energy Information Agency estimates that ANWR contains between 6 billion and 16 billion barrels of oil.
  • By comparison, the United States imports 7 million barrels of oil per day; if only 6 billion barrels of oil were recovered in ANWR, in a time of emergency, the United States could cut all imports of foreign oil for two years with little or no effect on our economy.
  • Put another way, ANWR could deliver enough oil to the United States to free us from Saudi Arabian oil for more than 20 years.

And, contrary to environmentalists' claims, there is no reason for thinking that oil production and environmental quality are incompatible, says Burnett.

  • Caribou herds have expanded in and around Prudhoe Bay and other wildlife have flourished as well, apparently unaffected by the relatively primitive (by today's standards) oil and gas development in the area.
  • And environmental groups including the Nature Conservancy and the Audubon Society allow oil drilling on some of their most unique properties; as with the rest of the economy, technology has improved in the oil patch.

Environmentalists' objections to drilling on public lands aren't really about protecting pristine places at all. Rather, it is about restricting Americans' energy choices, says Burnett.

Source: H. Sterling Burnett, "America can safely seek new oil," Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, December 3, 2004.

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