My turn: ANWR is the best place to reduce energy dependence

Posted: Friday, July 01, 2005

Like a majority of Alaskans, I support responsible exploration and development of a small section of ANWR on Alaska's North Slope.

For decades we have been proving that the need to provide energy for America can be balanced with the need to protect the environment. Since the early 1970s, the state of Alaska has played a critical role in increasing the United States' energy independence, providing at peak production more than two million barrels a day. Today, Alaska oil fields are in decline and contribute less than one million barrels of oil per day for the nation's energy needs.

Alaska oil is produced using the cleanest, most technologically advanced, environmentally sensitive methods in the world. We, Alaskans, set the standard for the industry. This is due to environmentalists who have played a critical role in ensuring that we produce oil in Alaska in the most responsible manner possible. Unlike most environmental groups, this one doesn't have an office in Washington D. C. This group has, for generations, lived in Alaska, in ANWR, in Section 1002, in the village of Kaktovik.

This group is Inupiat. Long before there were phone banks, e-mail, blast faxes or direct mail solicitations, the Inupiat cared for the land in and around ANWR. For centuries, they have balanced their need to use the land and its resources with a desire to ensure that those resources would remain for future generations. With the introduction of oil production in the 1970s, the Inupiat continued their role as stewards of the land.

Because of the Inupiat's input on how development should proceed in ANWR, there will be seasonal limitations on operations. Ice roads and ice pads for exploration wells will be utilized. Permanent infrastructure will be limited to 2,000 acres. That is just 0.01 percent of the entire 19.6 million-acre refuge. In comparison, it is about the size of one single letter on the front page of the New York Times.

This is all made possible by the industry's 30-year experience in the Alaska arctic, where it has continually developed new technologies to minimize environmental impact while increasing its ability to recover more of the oil that is discovered.

Like a majority of Americans, I am concerned with national security. America's increasing dependence on foreign oil for our energy needs is a pressing threat to security.

Currently, 60 percent of the oil consumed in the United States is imported from foreign sources. We import this oil primarily from Middle Eastern and OPEC countries that virtually control our energy policy. They dictate what we pay at the pump for gasoline and the price we pay to heat or cool our homes. Working Americans, their families and employers are held hostage by OPEC and unfriendly foreign nations to meet their energy needs.

The area of the world we most heavily rely on for our oil supply is unstable. Iraq, Saudi Arabia and most of the Middle East are where the majority of the violence in the world is taking place today.

It is a part of the world where people just don't like Americans. At the drop of a hat we could see a change of policy in the Middle East directed toward America that threatens our supply of oil and thus threatens our ability to grow the economy of this country and to allow Americans to continue to enjoy the quality of life to which they have become accustomed.

America needs to increase its domestic supply of oil as one measure to reduce this national security nightmare.

ANWR represents the last, best and most feasible opportunity for America to regain some of its energy independence.

It is estimated that ANWR contains up to 16 billion barrels of oil. The mean average of economically recoverable oil is currently estimated at 10.4 billion barrels. To put those figures in perspective, that represents almost half of our country's proven reserves of 22 billion barrels and more than the total proven reserves in all of Texas.

Oil from ANWR would reduce American dependence on OPEC and Middle Eastern oil, representing a safe and secure American supply of oil that would help reduce demand for foreign oil for 25 years or more.

• Jerry Hood serves as the Washington D. C., coordinator for Arctic Power, which advocates for the development of ANWR.

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