The Why and Wherefore

Why ANWR Isn’t the Answer

Posted on: July 2, 2008

My mom got another one of those fact-free email forwards about ANWR drilling and why the Evil Socialist Liberals are conspiring to keep gas prices high because, you know, they hate freedom. She asked me to put something together to send back.

So naturally, as the champion of truth, justice and long-windedness, I was compelled to respond.

First off: drilling in ANWR isn’t going to help a damn thing. Any new drilling project, whether in ANWR or offshore, will take at least a decade to start actually producing oil. So anyone looking for short-term gas price relief: ANWR isn’t going to help you. According to a May 2008 report from the Energy Information Administration (emphases mine):

The opening of the ANWR 1002 Area to oil and natural gas development is projected to increase domestic crude oil production starting in 2018. In the mean ANWR oil resource case, additional oil production resulting from the opening of ANWR reaches 780,000 barrels per day in 2027 and then declines to 710,000 barrels per day in 2030. In the low and high ANWR oil resource cases, additional oil production resulting from the opening of ANWR peaks in 2028 at 510,000 and 1.45 million barrels per day, respectively.

The same is true for offshore drilling. Any politician who promises you immediate gas-price relief through ANWR or offshore drilling is lying through his teeth.

Secondly, and more important: gas prices aren’t going back down. Sorry. And that’s probably the best thing to happen to us since oil was discovered.

Al Gore was spot-on about inflating gas prices to $5 – this is the only mechanism that will force people to change their behavior. The current oil usage of Americans (and now, China and India) is totally unsustainable and already contributes to hundreds of thousands of deaths per year from air pollution alone.

The urban sprawl fostered by our car culture is partially responsible for the breached levees in New Orleans and along the Mississippi – all the development filled up the wetlands and grounds that, in the past, absorbed excess water from floods and hurricanes. The reduced snowpack in western U.S. mountains means water shortages on the West Coast and drier seasons that have, in the past few weeks, torched northern CA to a crisp.

And if that isn’t convincing enough, also check out this article on other benefits of high gas prices, including a reduction in outsourcing, improved public transit services, more telecommuting options, fewer car accidents and improved health (from walking more). This doesn’t mean we’re all going to have to live off the grid in huts and give up our Starbucks. What these gas prices are forcing us to do is a) change our individual behavior, for the better, and b) invest in renewable energy innovations like solar power, wind energy, and electric/fuel-cell cars.

So yes, high gas prices hurt in the short term, but they may make the difference between salvaging our society and a future of global resource wars (and if you think I’m exaggerating about that, see: basically all of Africa, and food riots in Haiti, Bangladesh, Egypt, etc.)

Update: OK, maybe you’ll have to give up your Starbucks after all.

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