Alaska's last major disaster, the Exxon Valdez oil spill in March 1989, killed congressional approval for oil drilling on the coastal plain of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. Our current major disaster, the terrorists' attack on the World Trade Center in New York and the Pentagon, should undo the crippling effect of the Exxon spill on Alaska's energy economy. Actually, it is the nation's energy economy just as New York's disaster is the nation's and Alaska's disaster.
Alaskans warned for years that further oil development in Alaska, especially on the ANWR coastal plain, is necessary for the nation's security. After terrorists from the Middle East - financed by money received from selling oil to the United States - carried out their attack, what more is there to argue?
The U.S. buys 700,000 barrels of oil a day from Saddam Hussein's Iraq. Then the U.S. burns jet fuel to patrol his air space and shoot rockets at anti-aircraft sites that protect his facilities for building weapons of mass destruction. He undoubtedly uses some of the money from selling oil to finance terrorism against the United States. Who is nuts, us or Saddam?
At the same time, we have plenty of energy sources within the U.S. and in friendly Canada and Mexico to meet our needs without destroying the environment or sending money to terrorists sympathizers. The coastal plain oil reservoir is big enough to more than replace those 700,000 Iraqi barrels.
A bonus to the nation is that Alaskans invest their oil proceeds - more than $27 billion - in the U.S. economy. After announcing the annual dividend, Alaska Permanent Fund trustees said that they were selling the fund's bond holdings and investing in more stock. That and $500,000 million the city of New York invested in stocks, after the market-crippling disaster, were factors in restoring market confidence and protecting millions of individuals' 401K's.
Americans get more than oil from Alaska.
Conservation and finding alternate energy sources are necessary. But our energy needs are so great and increasing so fast that mining coal (which provides more than 50 percent of the nation's electric power) and pumping oil must increase. We need all of our energy sources, more so now that we are threatened with a 21st Century war.
Every new baby born or immigrant arriving in the United States requires energy. The United States population in 2000 had doubled in 60 years to 283 million. And every American has acquired many more energy-devouring devices in those 60 years - air conditioning, microwaves, clothes dryers, computers, televisions, and second cars. Americans also travel by jet airliners - 4,000 planes a day in the air before Sept. 11 - burning huge amounts of fuel unheard of 60 years ago.
It takes time to develop more oil in Alaska and the other states. The time to have started was in 1989 before Capt. Hazelwood and his wayward tanker energized the opponents of Alaska development. We now have to run to catch up before our situation gets worse.
One reason Japan and Germany lost World War II is that they ran out of oil. This writer was with the first troops occupying Japan after it surrendered. We found the Japanese using alternate fuels in their vehicles. It was gas from a charcoal burner mounted on the rear bumper. Is that what our energy policies are driving our country toward? Little starting power and not clean burning.
They also weren't much on 401K's or women's rights either.
Williams is retired publisher of the Ketchikan Daily News and a former member of the University of Alaska Board of Regents.
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