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Small Group of House Republicans Derails ANWR Drilling

 

DATE: November 10, 2005

BACKGROUND: Both the U.S. House and Senate budget bills included a provision that would allow for oil drilling in a small fraction of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.  The Senate passed its budget bill last week, but leaders in the House dropped the ANWR provision late November 9 after a small group of moderate Republicans threatened to withhold support for the budget if ANWR were included.  Although the House repeatedly has voted to allow drilling in ANWR, since most Democrats were expected to vote against the budget, the moderate House members had exceptional leverage in this instance.

One of the moderates, Rep. Charlie Bass (R-NH), wrote a letter opposing ANWR drilling that was signed by at least 24 of his Republican colleagues and delivered to House Rules Committee Chairman David Drier early this week.  Rep. Bass' objection to drilling is largely philosophical: "Including the drilling provision in the Deficit Reduction Act would undermine the protection of all public spaces by valuing the worth of the potential resources contained within these lands over their conservation value... Rather then reversing decades of protection for this publicly held land, focusing greater attention on renewable energy sources, alternate fuels, and more efficient systems and appliances would yield more net energy savings."1

The budget measure the GOP moderates held hostage is intended to reduce government spending by $53.9 billion over five years.  According to Bloomberg News, "selling leases to oil companies to drill in the refuge would bring in about $2.5 billion."2


TEN SECOND RESPONSE
: Access to the abundant oil reserves in ANWR would strengthen America's energy independence without harming the environment.


THIRTY SECOND RESPONSE
: Oil drilling in the desolate ANWR would be confined to a small 2,000 acre footprint on the massive 19.6 million acre reserve.3  That's just 0.01% of ANWR's total acreage.  Oil exploration would create new jobs and decrease America's dependence on foreign oil without harming the environment.  At present, renewable energy sources are woefully inadequate to meet America's energy needs.  Solar and wind power, for example, supply a paltry 0.19 percent of America's total energy.4


DISCUSSION
:

The U.S. Department of Energy says: "Our dependence upon oil, especially foreign oil, affects our economy and our national energy security.  Today, over half of the oil we use is imported... Most of the world's oil reserves are concentrated in the Middle East, and over two-thirds are controlled by OPEC members.  Oil price shocks and price manipulation by OPEC have cost our economy dearly -- about $7 trillion from 1979 to 2000... and each major price shock was followed by a recession. With growing U.S. imports and increasing world dependence on OPEC oil, future price shocks are possible..."5

Domestic oil drilling is not the only way to reduce dependence on foreign oil imports -- conservation and the development of new energy technologies are other cited methods -- but for now and the immediate future, it is a very important one.

In ANWR, domestic drilling can be done in an environmentally-responsible manner.

ANWR drilling also would create jobs.  Estimates of the number of jobs to be created vary widely, from low estimates of tens of thousands of new jobs to, according to one estimate, over 2.2 million.6

In 1998, the U.S. Geological Survey made the following estimates about the amount of oil recoverable in ANWR: "There is a 95 percent probability (a 19 in 20 chance) that at least 5.7 billion barrels of oil are recoverable.  There is a 5 percent probability (a 1 in 20 chance) that at least 16 billion barrels of oil are recoverable.  The mean (expected value) estimate is 10.3 billion barrels of recoverable oil."7 

The recently-approved Senate provision restricts oil exploration in ANWR to what is known as the "1002 area,"8 which is located on ANWR's northern coast.  According to the U.S. Geological Survey, the amount of recoverable oil located within the 1002 area is estimated to be between 4.3 and 11.8 billion barrels (a mean value estimate of 7.7 billion barrels).9

To put this information in perspective, according to the U.S. Department of Energy's Energy Information Administration:

* In 2004, the U.S. consumed 20,731,000 barrels of oil per day, or 7,566,815,000 barrels in 200410

* In 2004, the U.S. imported 12,097,000 barrels per day, or 4,415,405,000 barrels for the year11

* In 2004, the U.S. imported approximately 1,556,000 barrels a day, or 567,940,000 barrels of oil over the year, from Saudi Arabia.12

Surveys report that three-fourths of all Alaskans support drilling in ANWR, with the Inupiat Eskimos, who live in the region, supporting it by a slightly higher margin.13

Among the U.S. public as a whole, a September 2005 poll conducted by the Pew Research Center found support for ANWR drilling on the rise.  According to a survey report released by Pew September 15: "The survey finds that the rise in energy prices also has had a perceptible impact on public views of the tradeoff between boosting the energy supply and protecting the environment. A solid majority (57%) now says it is more important to develop new energy sources than to protect the environment, up from 49% who expressed that view in March. Support for oil and gas drilling in the Alaskan Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR) also has gained, from 42% in March to 50% currently. Democrats, in particular, are much more receptive to drilling in the Alaska refuge."14

A Gallup poll conducted in March 2005, like the Pew poll conducted that same month, found 42 percent in favor of ANWR drilling.  When Gallup asked the same question in March 2002, 35 percent of respondents were in favor.15

FOR MORE INFORMATION:

"Senator Murkowski: New Poll Shows Public Support Growing to Open Arctic Coastal Plain to Oil And Gas Development," Press Release, office of Senator Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), September 16, 2005, available at http://murkowski.senate.gov/pressapp/record.cfm?id=245926

"National Polls Find Majority of Americans Support ANWR Production," Press Release, House Resources Committee, February 1, 2005, available at http://resourcescommittee.house.gov/Press/releases/2005/0202anwrpolls.htm

"Environmentalists' Opposition to Oil Exploration in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge Is Unfounded," National Center for Public Policy Research National Policy Analysis #324, January 2001, by John Carlisle at http://www.nationalcenter.org/NPA324.html

"Drilling Would Ease U.S. Dependence" by H. Sterling Burnett of the National Center for Policy Analysis, Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel, May 22, 2004, at http://www.jsonline.com/news/editorials/may04/231377.asp

"Wishes Won't Fuel Our Economy: We Need Drilling," National Center for Public Policy Research National Policy Analysis #371, November 2001, by Amy Ridenour at http://www.nationalcenter.org/NPA375.html

by Peyton Knight

Contact the author at: 202-543-4110 or [email protected]

The National Center for Public Policy Research
501 Capitol Court, N.E.
Washington, D.C. 20002

Note: This publication was updated on November 17, 2005.




Footnotes:

1 Catherine Dodge, "Some House Republicans Want Alaska Drilling Out of Budget Plan," Bloomberg News and Commentary, November 8, 2005, appearing on the Bloomberg.com webpage at http://www.bloomberg.com/apps/news?pid=10000103&sid=afZ9s79t6dLg&refer=us, as downloaded November 9, 2005.

2 Catherine Dodge, "Some House Republicans Want Alaska Drilling Out of Budget Plan," Bloomberg News and Commentary, November 8, 2005, appearing on the Bloomberg.com webpage at http://www.bloomberg.com/apps/news?pid=10000103&sid=afZ9s79t6dLg&refer=us, as downloaded November 9, 2005.

3 Arctic Power, "ANWR: America's Energy Insurance Policy," appearing on the Arctic Power webpage at http://www.anwr.org/features/pdfs/myths-flyer3.pdf, as downloaded November 9, 2005.

4 Tom Bethell, "A Civil War Between the Greens," The American Spectator, June, 2005, appearing on The American Spectator webpage at http://www.spectator.org/dsp_article.asp?art_id=8308, as downloaded November 9, 2005.

5 "Strengthen Energy National Security," undated U.S. Department of Energy document, downloaded from http://www.fueleconomy.gov/feg/oildep.shtml on November 9, 2005.

6 For arguments favoring lower job-creation estimates, see a U.S. Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee Minority (Democratic) press release, "Energy Conference Update #21 (Fake Jobs vs. Real Jobs)," October 22, 2003,  available online at http://energy.senate.gov/public/index.cfm?FuseAction=PressReleases.Detail&PressRelease_id=621&Month=10&Year=2003&Party=0 as of November 9, 2005.  For more information on the 2.2 million estimate, see The Economic Impact of ANWR Resources (2003), published by the National Defense Council  Foundation, Alexandria, Virginia.  A summary of the report's findings by state was available online at http://www.anwr.org/docs/ANWR_jobs_brief.pdf as of November 9, 2005.

7 "Potential Oil Production from the Coastal Plain of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge: Updated Assessment," Executive Summary, U.S. Department of Energy's Energy Information Administration, downloaded from http://www.eia.doe.gov/pub/oil_gas/petroleum/analysis_publications/arctic_national_wildlife_refuge/html/execsummary.html on November 9, 2005.

8  U.S. Department of Interior, News Release, "Secretary Norton Praises Senate Vote on ANWR," as downloaded from the U.S. Department of Interior webpage at http://www.doi.gov/news/05_News_Releases/051019.htm on November 16, 2005.

9  U.S. Geological Survey, "Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, 1002 Area, Petroleum Assessment, 1998, Including Economic Analysis," as downloaded from the U.S. Geological Survey webpage at http://pubs.usgs.gov/fs/fs-0028-01/fs-0028-01.htm on November 16, 2005.

10 "Petroleum Quick Stats," U.S. Department of Energy's Energy Information Administration, downloaded from http://www.eia.doe.gov/neic/quickfacts/quickoil.html on November 8, 2005.

11 "Petroleum Quick Stats," U.S. Department of Energy's Energy Information Administration, downloaded from http://www.eia.doe.gov/neic/quickfacts/quickoil.html on November 8, 2005.

12 "Table 5.4: Petroleum Imports by Country of Origin," U.S. Department of Energy's Energy Information Administration, downloaded from http://www.eia.doe.gov/emeu/aer/txt/ptb0504.html  on November 9, 2005.

13 NewsMax, "Poll: Eskimos Back ANWR Drilling," March 14, 2005, appearing on the NewsMax webpage at http://www.newsmax.com/archives/ic/2005/3/14/110729.shtml, as downloaded November 9, 2005.

14 "Economic Pessimism Grows, Gas Prices Pinch," Pew Research Center, September 15, 2005, downloaded from http://people-press.org/reports/display.php3?ReportID=257 on November 9, 2005.

15 Gallup polls conducted in March 2005 and March 2002.  Question asked was: "Do you think the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge in Alaska should or should not be opened up for oil exploration?"  Data obtained from the Gallup website at http://brain.gallup.com/content/default.aspx?ci=1615&pg=2 on November 9, 2005.

 


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