Part two of the anwr essay assignment from my college class winter 2006.
At the end of his essay on drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, George F. Will writes, “Cherry Garcia – it’s a choice.” It most certainly is a choice. As a nation, we are faced with many such choices as a result of the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001. Our dependence on foreign oil is of major concern because Americans are such heavy consumers of it that it has become our lifeline. Without a reliable source of oil, this country would shut down in a matter of weeks. If we keep this in mind, opening such a small area of a wildlife refuge might seem like it shouldn’t be such a big deal, but to many Americans it is a big deal. There are grave concerns about the impact that drilling in ANWR will have on the environment. Will answers those arguments in his essay, “Being Green at Ben and Jerry’s” in which he equates choosing to drill in ANWR to choosing to open a pint of Cherry Garcia ice cream. It might not make sense at first, but after reading the article I made the connection that while drilling in ANWR might not be a perfect solution, it has the potential to do a lot of good in a world after September 11th. Not only will drilling in ANWR provide economic gains for Alaskans, but it will also improve domestic energy security.
America is dependent on sources of oil that are controlled by foreign interests that are less secure than a domestic source. It is a fact that the United States sits on “less than 3 percent of the world’s oil reserves yet consumes 25 percent of the world’s oil” (Pierce as qtd in Holland). This fact means that due to our rate of consumption, we have no choice but to import our oil from foreign sources. As a direct result of this, the percentage of oil imports have been on the rise, “Oil imports, in the meantime, crept up from their 1985 low of 29 percent of U.S. oil consumption to 57 percent in 2000” (Holdren). This dependence on foreign oil is only going to continue to rise until we find an alternative fuel source. In fact, in his state of the union address this year, President Bush highlighted America’s compulsive need for oil when he said that “America is addicted to oil, which is often imported from unstable parts of the world” (as qtd in Huber). The crippling nature of addiction keeps us dependent on imports. This is worrisome because oil imports from politically unstable regions such as the middle-east “make up 11 percent of total U.S. Consumption” (Reynolds-Wallsten). If we were to lose that eleven percent of our oil due to a political farce, the United States would be faced with a very serious and tragic energy crisis that could end at the cost of many lives. Our need for oil is heavily intertwined with our way of life. Without a means to protect that way of life, our energy sources could become the hostage of political opponents to the United States.
We need a backup plan for security because America cannot be energy independent even with more domestic oil. The key to ending this chain of addiction is not as simple as it might seem. Alternative fuels and power sources are being researched and may gain popularity but it will take time for America to become an energy independent nation, “The question isn’t whether carbohydrates can be turned into hydrocarbons, it’s whether corn and wood will ever be as cheap and easy a starting point as fossil fuels” (Huber). Until such time as alternative fuels become economically feasible, we are going to be dependent on oil imports. In the mean time, the best outcome that we can hope for is that the current flow of oil from the middle-east is not interrupted. Opening ANWR would help alleviate some of the worry surrounding the unstable nature of eleven percent of our imports because “[t]he mid-range estimates for reserves in ANWR are the equivalent of 10 years of oil from the Persian Gulf. That’s 10 years to let diplomacy work in the event of a serious disruption in supply” (Abraham). Ten years is a long time to negotiate and also a long time to allow us to research alternative sources of fuel so that we are in a stronger political position when we go to the bargaining table with foreign nations. These things are such a vital part of our energy security that the time benefit is a hard one to overlook. Opening ANWR to commercial drilling will give us that needed time which will spare us from having to cope with danger to our oil supply while we let diplomacy work.
The diplomatic advantages of opening ANWR for drilling are more subtle when compared to the economic gains for Alaskans. While ANWR won’t create the vast number of jobs predicted by conservative think tanks, job growth is still put in the “range of 86,000 to 245,000” (Milbank). These jobs will provide better incomes for Alaskans living in the area, which will increase consumer spending. Increases in consumer spending have long been shown to support economic gains. These economic gains will only continue to have positive effects because they will also spread to Native Americans living in Alaska. Many Native American groups in Alaska own their own companies which means “that drilling would be an economic benefit to Native and village corporations with oil field-related subsidies” (Lewin). These traditionally poor sections of American society would be granted a share of the profits, which would help improve their quality of life. In addition to this, there would be overall gains for all of the residents of Alaska because “[t]he state of Alaska receives 85% of its annual revenue from oil taxes and royalties” (Lewin). Revenue for the government tends to trickle down to the populace through increased spending on state programs such as public schools, health care and welfare. The potential economic gains for Alaskans are clear and provide an equally strong argument in favor of opening ANWR for drilling to that of our need for energy security.
Call me an old fashioned girl. I like knowing that America is going to continue to be the land of the free and the home of the brave. Maybe I’m also a bit of a modern girl in that I want to see people that are traditionally put down in our culture succeed in life. Allowing ANWR to be open for commercial drilling will meet both of those ends. Alternative fuels can work for us, but we need more time to develop them so that every American can afford to take advantage of sources of fuel that are safe, domestic and clean. In terms of politics and diplomacy, America may not have that kind of time. I also want to see the Native Americans repaid for the heavy burden that was placed on them when they were forced away from their indigenous lands. It’s important that they keep their eyes on the prize of maintaining their way of life. In our modern world, it takes money to make those things happen. Drilling for oil in ANWR will provide that money. Even with all of these things that contribute to my support of drilling in ANWR, it does boil down to one thing. It’s all about choice. The choices we make do have the potential to change the world and the way others view us. Will Americans choose to be remembered for a pile of methane gas and cow dung, or for the wholesome goodness of a pint of Cherry Garcia? If you ask me, I’ll take the Cherry Garcia. All I need is a spoon.
Abraham, Spencer “Drill ANWR Now” The Wall Street Journal 8. Nov. 2001 Proquest
Spencer Abraham’s commentary provided a much needed perspective on how opening ANWR for drilling will realistically impact our nation’s future oil needs. I used a quote from this article to illustrate that point and the political leverage that having domestic oil sources will give us.
Holdren, John P. “Searching For A National Energy Policy” Issues in Science and Technology Spring 2001. Proquest
Holdren’s article is a summary of current energy policy. I used a quote from it to illustrate America’s rising dependence on foreign sources of oil and establish that the rise was an ongoing trend that was only going to continue.
Holland, Judy “The Debate Over Arctic Oil Drilling Erupts Again” Seattle Post-Intelligencer 12. Jun. 2004 Proquest
Holland’s article illustrates the violence of the debate in Congress over whether ANWR should be opened for drilling or not. I used a quote from a lobbyist against drilling in ANWR to provide a basis for why we are so heavily dependent on foreign oil in the first place.
Huber, Peter “Crude Awakening” The Wall Street Journal 3. Feb. 2006 Proquest
Huber’s article provided a summary and commentary on the president’s State of the Union address for 2006 and the potential uses of alternative fuels. I used a quote from the President’s speech in this article to illustrate that even our nation’s highest office recognizes Americans as oil addicts, and another quote to show that while we have alternative fuel sources, we’re not quite prepared to go to market with them.
Lewin, Sam “Alaska Natives Weigh in on Drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge” Native American Times 17. Nov. 2004 Proquest
This article is a discussion of the views of Native Americans in Alaska and why they support drilling in ANWR. Lewin’s article provided a source for some basic facts on how Native Americans benefit from drilling, which I used to show that it will provide economic gains.
Milbank, Dana “Arctic Oil Gets an Administration Gusher” The Washington Post 13. Dec. 2005. Proquest
Milbank discusses the views of the current administration on ANWR and talks about an investigation committee that was doing some fact checking. Their figures on the number of potential jobs seemed more reliable than others that I found. A million jobs didn’t seem like a realistic number to me, but the numbers provided in Milbank’s article seemed more realistic. I used them to show job growth, which would provide economic gains.
Reynolds, Maura. Wallsten, Peter “Some of Bush’s Facts Don’t Tell Whole Story” Seattle Times 1. Feb. 2006 Proquest
The Reynolds-Wallsten article gave a run-down on a speech by the President. I used it to provide statistics for how much oil the United States currently imports from the middle- east to shore up my argument that ANWR could potentially replace middle-eastern imports for a time.