Friday, May 14, 2004

More ANWR: One of the arguments against ANWR drilling is that the reserves there amount to only a "six-month supply" of oil. By rough calculation, I make this out to be about 3.6 billion barrels of oil (at a 20 million barrel/day consumption rate), which is so far to the low end of various estimates that it is wholly disingenuous. The DOI suggests a mean estimate of 10.4 billion barrels, or roughly three times what the critics say. (Read on in that DOI document, by the way, to see how we would bend over backward to protect the ecosystem.)

Okay, so all I've really shown is that there might be something closer to an 18-month supply of oil, right? Luckily, we don't have to survive solely on domestic production, so we can use our reserves strategically. Our other production in Alaska gives us about 1.5 million barrels per day. Pumping ANWR at the same rate means a steady supply (to the effect of doubling our Alaska production) for 19 years. What's the economic effect? Everyone, including OPEC, seems to think that $30/barrel is a decent target for oil prices. At that price, 1.5 million barrel/day is $16 billion per year. $16 billion dollars that we don't send to OPECs mid-east kleptocracies and South American banana republics. (Scroll down to the bottom chart on this page and note how oil prices start to get all squirrely right about the time OPEC becomes a major force. Note, too, that the Middle East really starts to go to hell right about that time. Coincidentally, terrorists get into executing innocent Jews for sport. Seeing a pattern?) Even chopping down pie-eyed union-job estimates (in which there is a guy who watches the guy who watches the guy who watches the guy who flips the switch, etc.), ANWR could create between 50,000 and 200,000 new jobs -- and not all of them in Alaska.

So an extra 1.5 billion barrel/day is nothing to sneeze at, no matter what the tree huggers say. As for the "environment," ANWR can benefit, too. We give "big oil" a million acres (out of 19) to study, then about 2000 for actual drilling, and Alaska gets enough do-re-mi to fund the rest of ANWR in perpetuity. But won't the caribou suffer? Pfft. The caribou herds still go to Prudhoe Bay to birth calves, despite the fact that we pump out 1.5 million barrels every day there. There is still a bit of a scuffle among environmentalists over this. Some of them have seen the dramatic increase in caribou population in the Prudhoe fields and come to rethink the effects of responsible exploration and drilling. Others have simply ignored the inconvenient facts.

I'm really a green at heart -- right, Razor? And I think it will be a great day when we wean ourselves from oil, though the biggest impact will be in foreign policy, not the environment. In fact, the technological strides we have made in our ability to burn more oil with less pollution shows that we're heading in the right direction. Perhaps 10 years from now, the kind of combustion/electric hybrid technology we're beginning to see now will be commonplace. The efficiency of both the electric and combustion components will only increase. The green side refuses to see this, refuses to credit the good news. Maybe we'll always burn some oil. What's wrong with that? At the rate we're going, we'll do it with negligible effect. This is another thing the greens won't countenance. It's a moral equation for them, and burning oil is just plain evil. How much won't matter, nor will the actual effects. The fringe should be ignored.

Meanwhile, I'm scientifically optimistic, even if politically pessimistic.

1 comment:

Razor said...

That's such a good post, I'm ashamed to be listed as a contributor here. I always knew there was a bit of Bjorn in you. I agree you are "Green" but perhaps in the truest sense, not the way "greens" portray themselves today (eco-terrorists).

All that said, I am highly suspicious of Gail Norton and her purported stringent safeguards on drilling. Spills will occur; rules will be bent if not broken. One also can easily imagine the 2000 acres becoming a bunch of additional 2000 acres - it's always easier to ask for forgiveness than permission.

Last, drilling in Alaska is easy. Cutting our dependence on oil is hard. One good step would be to re-classifiy SUVs from "light trucks" to the everday people/family haulers that they are. Screw the Toyota Priuses of the world - those are for Buck Rogers. It's too easy to say that we're working on these cars and that in twenty years they should be nearly ready, when we have steps we can take now.