American television viewers recently received
the dubious treat of television commercials telling them that
if they drive SUVs, they support terrorists.
The ads, produced by such renowned terrorism
experts as the producer of the film "Pulp Fiction,"
claimed that SUV owners support terrorism because America imports
oil from the Middle East.
Although the commercials were quick to
indict car-pooling Moms, they had not a word of complaint about
those who insist that America should not replace Middle Eastern
oil with oil from (reliably non-terrorist) Alaska.
According to a Clinton Administration
U.S. Department of Energy report, environmentally-responsible
drilling on a mere one percent of Alaska's 1.5 million acre Arctic
National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR) could provide 1.0 to 1.35 million
barrels per day.1
That beats an extra couple of gallons
a week anytime.
Yet, so far, no drilling. That's because
the U.S. Senate, lobbied hard by environmentalists, has so far
The stakes are enormous.
America currently imports 1.5 million
barrels of oil a day from Saudi Arabia. ANWR oil could replace
nearly all we currently import from the Saudis for almost 30 years,
or replace one-half of our imports from all of the Persian Gulf
for 36 years.2 Drilling also could provide between 250,000 and
735,000 new jobs.3
Environmentalists insist that drilling
on part of ANWR's flat, treeless, nearly featureless plain - where
the temperatures can drop to 40 degrees below zero in the winter
(making it all but uninhabitable for most animals)4 - will harm
the environment and the native caribou herds, but this just doesn't
seem to be so.
Environmentalists said similar things
decades ago about drilling on Alaska's North Slope, where, during
the last 20 years of drilling operations, the caribou population
has grown from 3,000 to as high as 23,400.5 Between 1980 and 1994,
North Slope oil field development and production activity contributed
over $50 billion to the nation's economy - resources that would
have been lost had the nation listened to the environmentalists.6
Environmentalists also pretend ANWR is
a vast natural wilderness untouched by human hands, but Inupiat
Eskimos have lived in the region for thousands of years. Don't
Native Americans count?
Alaskans - Native American and otherwise
- strongly support ANWR drilling. Year after year, polls show
that three out of four Alaskans support ANWR drilling.7 Pro-drilling
resolutions in the Alaska legislature have received 100 percent
support from both parties.8 Citizens of Kaktovik, the home of
the Inupiat Eskimos, the only people native to the ANWR region,9
support drilling 78 percent to nine percent.10 The 90,000-member
Alaska Federation of Natives, representing 400 Native American
groups, supports drilling.11 (Environmentalists will tell you
the Gwich'in Eskimos oppose drilling, but rarely volunteer that
the Gwich'in live elsewhere - and that they support drilling on
their own lands).
Contrary to what many environmentalists
say, developing ANWR will not harm the environment. The facts
clearly show that drilling on Alaska's North Slope is making a
major contribution to domestic oil production without harming
wildlife or scarring the landscape. Thanks to technological advances
since the opening of the North Slope, ANWR's coastal plain can
be explored with an even greater certainty that the environment
will be protected.
In fact, opening ANWR may even help the
environment. The widely publicized 1989 tanker accident in Prince
William Sound was an oil transportation accident, not a drilling
accident. As George Wuerch, mayor of Anchorage, has noted, it
is ironic that those who oppose development of petroleum resources
in Alaska would require instead that our nation depend even more
heavily on foreign imports, which means even more foreign tankers
navigating off the nation's shores.12
By opposing development of ANWR without
legitimate ecological grievances, environmentalists unnecessarily
condemn consumers to higher energy prices. And, to whatever extent
the Detroit Project is right about Middle Eastern oil money supporting
terrorists, if importing an extra two gallons a week supports
terrorists in their evil work, what does a million gallons do?
Amy Ridenour is President of
The National Center for Public Policy Research, a Washington,
D.C. think tank. Comments may be sent to [email protected].
1 "Potential Oil Production from the Coastal
Plain of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge: Updated Assessment,"
U.S. Department of Energy, Energy Information Administration,
Washington, DC, May 22, 2000, available on the Internet at http://www.eia.doe.gov/pub/oil_gas/petroleum/analysis_publications/arctic_national_wildlife_refuge/html/execsummary.html.
2 Gretchen Randall, "In Movie Theatre Ads, Actor Martin
Sheen Attacks Proposed ANWR Drilling," Ten Second Response,
The National Center for Public Policy Research, Washington, DC,
October 19, 2001, available on the Internet at http://www.nationalcenter.org/TSR101901.html.
3 "Top 10 Reasons to Support Development in ANWR,"
Arctic Power ANWR website, downloaded from the Internet at http://www.anwr.org/topten.htm
on February 6, 2003.
4 U.S. Senator Frank Murkowski, "Drilling Won't Make
It Less of a Refuge," The Washington Post, December 10, 2000,
as cited by John Carlisle, "Environmentalists' Opposition
to Oil Exploration in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge is Unfounded,"
National Policy Analysis #324, The National Center for Public
Policy Research, Washington, DC, January 2001, available on the
Internet at http://www.nationalcenter.org/NPA324.html.
5 "Top 10 Reasons to Support Development in ANWR."
7 "The Players," Arctic Power ANWR website, downloaded
from the Internet at http://www.anwr.org/features/players/residents.htm
on February 6, 2003.
9 George Tagarook, "ANWR Reality Lies Far North of
Gwich'in," Arctic Power ANWR website, downloaded from the
Internet at http://www.anwr.org/features/players/inupiat.htm on
February 6, 2003.
10 "City of Kaktovik ANWR Survey," January 2000,
Arctic Power ANWR website, downloaded from the Internet at http://www.anwr.org/features/kaktovik.htm
on February 6, 2003.
11 "The Players."
12 Mayor George Wuerch, "ANWR Not An Either-Or Proposition,"
Municipality of Anchorage, AK, downloaded from the Internet at
http://www.anwr.org/features/players/residents.htm on February