Is it finally time to start drilling in ANWR to offset the high price of gas for our cars?

Drilling companies most often lease the rights...

Well, it’s that time again. Price of gas is climbing, the summer driving peak is approaching and the refineries will be adjusting their mixes. Every year we see prices rise in the spring and every time we hit a spike in price, a number of users start looking for ways to save money on gas.

Now we have Iran throwing a tantrum over their economic sanctions so they’re cutting oil shipments to Europe (Brits and French). While that may not sound significant, it still tightens the oil market and has impacted prices. The Saudi’s could increase production to offset this reduction by Iran but only time will tell if they do this.

This being an election year, it only stands to reason that the debate will once again come up over drilling, especially in ANWR (Arctic National Wildlife Refuge). This is not a new debate, it’s one that has been on and off again since the late 1970’s. It’s been a consistent battle of: left vs. right, liberal vs. conservative and house vs. senate.

Once the Trans-Alaska Pipeline System (TAPS) was put into use in 1977, there has been a liberal push to protect Alaska’s natural habitat. Numerous bills have been passed into law protecting one area or another. Every few years someone on the conservative side has introduced a bill to allow drilling in Alaska (in ANWR). However, every time a bill is introduced, the democratically controlled House or Senate has defeated it or it has been vetoed by the democratic president.

  • The sides were pretty well set from the start. I believe that the battle grew in the intensity in 1986 when the US Fish and Wildlife Service recommended that a large area in ANWR should be used for oil and gas development. The document noted that the economy needed the oil while those opposed to drilling noted that this development could threaten the caribou that live in the ANWR region.
  • In 1996, the Republicans controlled by the House and Senate. They approved a bill to allow drilling in ANWR but President Clinton vetoed the bill.
  • In 2000 the House passed another bill to allow drilling in ANWR but in 2002 the Senate defeated it.
  • In 2005 the Senate passed a bill to allow drilling in ANWR but included it in a budget resolution. The House removed the drilling feature after House democrats refused to pass the budget with the drilling addition.
  • In another 2005 showdown, democratic senators filibustered a defense appropriations bill that included a drilling provision.

Perhaps one the fiercest stances against drilling for oil offshore has been made by President Bill Clinton. In 1998 he signed a 10 year extension to a drilling ban to protect the US coastlines. This still allowed the drilling of the southern US which was already well established. I remember like it was yesterday President Clinton saying that drilling today won’t make a difference for nearly 10 years. He argued that making the change at that time wouldn’t fix the problems they had then. I kept thinking to myself; why not worry about 5-10 years down the road too? Why is he being so short sighted and just thinking about today?

It appears that Clinton’s thinking has come around after gaining a few more years of wisdom. In 2011, Bill Clinton told attendees of the IHS CERAWeek conference that delaying offshore permits at a time when the economy is still building is “ridiculous”. Furthermore, Presidents Clinton and Bush (George W) agreed on many aspects of oil and gas issues.

Today we are again faced with skyrocketing gas prices. AAA reports the national average for regular grade gasoline is $3.731 (2/29/2012) with the price one year ago listed as $3.375. The prices are climbing very early this year and we need to wonder where the price will peak. Better yet, we need find a solution to this and quit putting it off.

The “greenies” have pushed electric cars. Great thinking! I’m happy to see you’re looking for a solution. Right now though, electric cars suck. We can’t depend on that today just like we can’t wind technology (today). Those are potentially great long term solutions, but why limit ourselves to those two alternatives? We see that electric cars still need to run on gas, so we know that we’re going to need it for years to come. Thinking that electric cars are ready today is naïve and basing our decisions on the idea that electric cars will solve our problems is reckless.

If we open drilling today, it obviously won’t fix the problem today but it will help in a few years. Should we continue with this direction thinking that it won’t provide immediate relief? Continue thinking that we MAY harm the caribou if we move forward? Should we stake our economy and livelihood on that? Of course not, and that is why we see Bill Clinton’s thinking changing. He sees what is happening in the world. There is no green “silver bullet”. Wind and electric cars are not going to end these problems right now. It is going to take years to develop that technology and we have to still worry about the interim. If it takes 50 years to get electric cars & wind turbines developed to a standard that will actually work effectively for us, how are we going to manage the next 50 years? We need to drill. We need to use that drilling profit to fund additional research. We can’t scream carbon footprint and abandon fossil fuels entirely overnight.

We need to use some common sense. We need to plan for tomorrow so we don’t fail. We have to stop sending all of our money to manufacturer’s in China and oil moguls in the Middle East. Where is the pride? Where is the dominance? Where is the self-sufficiency that we need to re-establish?

Drilling and fossil fuels are not popular among the liberal crowd. Despite its lack of popularity, we are dependent and we need to address this. We need some long-term common sense solutions. People need to stop deciding everything based on their hearts and consider the logical business reasons too. This is not something that we can just go cold turkey on.


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