Energy plan will tap Alaskan reserves

Posted: Wednesday, December 08, 2004

When I hear my children say "I can't," I - like most parents - remind them that they can do anything if they put their minds to it and work hard.

That embodies the American dream. It's the can-do attitude that earned Henry Ford his Model T, the Wright Brothers their airplane, Bill Gates his Microsoft and the United States of America its first man on the moon.

Ingenuity, hard work and affordable energy made this country what it is today. From automobiles and aviation to health care and technology, the United States has led the world in progress and innovation. If we are going to continue our leadership, we must increase our supplies of reliable and affordable domestic energy.

When Congress returns for the 109th session, we will pass a comprehensive national energy plan that will include safe exploration and production in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.

In the past, Congress has failed to secure a national energy plan that will fuel this nation's leadership and innovation well into the future. Obstructionists in the Senate and environmental groups have too long stood on baseless rhetoric and symbolism to block American ingenuity.

These days are over as this Congress will pass the first comprehensive, national energy plan in over a decade. A central part of this plan lies on Alaska's northern arctic coast on the frozen plain of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. Only 2,000 acres on ANWR's coastal plain would provide a mean estimate of 10.3 billion barrels of economically recoverable oil.

By comparison, that is more than double the total proven reserves in the state of Texas and almost half of America's total reserve of 22.3 billion barrels. At today's prices, that is $300 billion we would not be sending overseas - much of it funding governments and regimes that hate Americans.

It also represents a staggering $120 billion in tax revenues the federal treasury could put toward health care, prescription drugs, Social Security and education.

And ANWR exploration would also create more than 1 million good jobs in the United States. If you listen to the scare tactics of environmentalists and their allies in Congress, however, we can't produce energy in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge without devastating the environment.

Not true. American ingenuity and current technology can be deployed now to develop ANWR with great environmental safety. Despite popular misconceptions, energy production and environmental protection are not mutually exclusive. In fact, the Clinton administration's 1999 Energy Department report, "Environmental Benefits of Advanced Oil and Gas Exploration and Production Technology," documents the innovations that make energy production and environmental protection mutually achievable - even in the arctic.

Ice roads and ice pads allow highly trained experts to conduct their work without any impact on the frozen tundra below. In addition, advanced 3-D seismic, 4-D visualization and remote sensing technologies drastically reduce the number of wells required to develop the resource, thereby lessening the amount of potential surface disturbance.

That's why legislation in Congress targets production to only 2,000 of ANWR's 19.6-million acres. To put that in perspective, the size of the average farm in South Dakota is more than 1,400 acres. Once we put these technologies and safeguards to work, we can produce energy in ANWR without environmental harm. And we will.

Including safe exploration on ANWR's coast in the national energy policy is a vital part of securing America's energy future. We must provide the resources to fuel our nation today, while employing the technologies to develop the energy sources of the future.

The comprehensive energy plan Congress will pass in the 109th session will do just that. Ingenuity and affordable energy made the United States the great nation it is today. Americans throughout history have put readily available energy to use in pursuit of a better way of life and a better quality of life. Prescription drugs, health care technology, automobiles, televisions, cell phones and the Internet would not have been possible without reliable and affordable energy.

As the world's leader in environmental protection, it is irresponsible for us to import oil from Third World countries that produce it recklessly. We can and will do our national security, environment and economy a great service by opening ANWR.

• Rep. Richard Pombo, R-Calif., is the chairman of the House Resources Committee. Readers may write to him at 2411 Rayburn House Office Building, Washington, D.C. 20515.

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