Drilling the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge doesn’t solve America’s energy problem

By JIM DIPESO, REP’s policy director

AN HISTORICAL DOCUMENT: Jim gave this statement at a press conference on Mercer Island, Washington on September 14, 2005.


See this? It’s a penny. One cent. When I was a boy, you could buy a tiny piece of gum from a gumball machine for 1 cent. That was a long time ago. Can’t do that anymore.

One cent. That’s about what the federal Department of Energy estimates you’ll save per gallon of gasoline if the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge is drilled for oil. Not now. Twenty years from now. One penny per gallon. Here. Don’t spend it all in one place.

That estimate tells us why drilling for oil in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge will not solve our energy problems.

In the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, we are hearing from some congressional leaders that we need more domestic drilling everywhere, from the deserts to the sea, to the Arctic Refuge. We depend too much on oil from the Gulf Coast, they say.

Hurricane Katrina was a wakeup call. But not in the way some congressional leaders would have us believe. The problem is not that we depend too much on oil from the Gulf Coast. The problem is that we depend too much on oil, period.

Drilling for oil in the Arctic Refuge does not solve that problem.

Here’s the reality, folks. We use 25 percent of all oil produced everywhere in the world. But we hold only 2 percent of the world’s crude oil reserves. Ninety-eight percent of the oil still in the ground is in some other country.

All the oil produced in the world is sold into one global market. The oil market is stretched tight by high demand. As a result, it has become a fickle, temperamental beast. We are at the mercy of any event anywhere in the world that affects oil production – a hurricane in the Gulf Coast, violence in the Middle East, labor unrest in Nigeria, civil unrest in Venezuela – maybe the impending arrival of peak oil, when we will face an irreversible decline in production. There is no margin for error and no room for the unexpected.

Drilling for oil in the Arctic Refuge does not solve that problem.

In a global market, the Arctic Refuge is too small to make a difference. Hence, the projected savings of 1 penny per gallon.

We have seen this problem coming for a generation. We have complacently kept putting all our eggs in the oil basket – as recently as this year when Congress passed a pork-filled energy bill that’s more of the same – more drilling, more dependence on oil, more gambling our future on an energy source that is looking more and more like a house of cards.

Drilling for oil in the Arctic Refuge does not solve that problem.

All it would do is raise false hopes and distract us from pursuing lasting energy solutions – reducing our dangerous oil dependence through greater efficiency, greater use of biofuels, and ultimately, finding a practical path to a solar/hydrogen future.

We can solve the problem but we have to start now. The solutions are sitting between our ears, waiting for the right combination of leadership, engineering, and entrepreneurship.

Let’s get to it. Let’s get out of our box and start preparing now for the world beyond oil. Let’s find energy solutions that will really work and let’s leave the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to its wildlife, natural quiet, and raw beauty for future generations.

So let’s ask Congressman Dave Reichert to join us in the campaign to protect the Arctic Refuge and to develop clean energy solutions for America.