Alaska editorial: Remember, ANWR is untapped resource

Posted: Friday, July 21, 2006

This editorial appeared in the Ketchikan Daily News:

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Alaska's lawmakers again are back in Juneau to consider changing the way oil production is taxed in this state - in large part because the production of oil is declining.

So what better time to talk about Alaska's biggest known untapped oil asset - the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.

But Alaska's legislators aren't talking about ANWR and its estimated 5.7 billion-16 billion barrels of oil.

That's because it's off-limits, courtesy of Congress.

Congress has failed several times to approve opening a minimal part (usually estimated at a footprint of 2,000 acres) of the 19-million-acre reserve in northeast Alaska to oil drilling.

Most recently, the Senate narrowly blocked an ANWR provision sought by Alaska Sen. Ted Stevens in December.

Congress' continuing opposition, seen largely as appeasement of national environmental lobbies, has costs that are growing by the day.

Here in Alaska, we forgo opportunities for jobs and revenue every moment ANWR isn't in production.

And, ANWR's absence from Alaska's available oil reserves certainly skews the current tax debate, especially regarding incentives for new oil exploration, as well as negotiations with the major oil companies about the proposed natural gas pipeline.

On the national level, the events of this week alone highlight the need for greater domestic oil production.

Violence in the Middle East - specifically the escalating Israel-Hezbollah-Lebanon conflict - in addition to explosive violence targeting Nigerian oil installations boosted oil prices to a record high above $76 dollars a barrel last week.

In addition, the Venezuelan-owned Citgo Petroleum Corp. announced this week it would stop distributing gasoline to about 1,800 independent stations in the United States.

Venezuela, led by the increasingly bellicose U.S.-hater Hugo Chavez, has the seventh largest oil reserve in the world. Also on the top 10 list are Iran, Russia, Libya, Nigeria, Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Canada and the United Arab Emirates, not all of which are on the friendliest terms with the United States.

It's clear the United States should be doing what it reasonably can to improve domestic oil production to reduce its dependency on foreign sources.

Opening ANWR to oil production is reasonable from a national perspective.

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