Environmental Groups Target Congress on Bush Energy Plan/ANWR


DATE: July 30, 2001

BACKGROUND: The League of Conservation Voters (LCV) has begun running radio and print ads designed to encourage voters to call their representatives and voice opposition to drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR). Southwest Utah Wilderness Alliance (SUWA) is urging its members to contact U.S. representatives and urge them to vote "NO" on the energy bill as it goes to the U.S. House floor this week.

TEN SECOND RESPONSE: There is no reason we can't protect our environment while at the same time opening up some of the federal lands that contain abundant supplies of energy.

THIRTY SECOND RESPONSE: Today there are safe ways of drilling for oil that leave a very small footprint and that do not harm wildlife. Caribou have flourished on Alaska's North Slope with the pipeline overhead. Opening ANWR to oil production would use only a small amount of land out of 19.5 million acres. It is crucial for our national security that we not rely too heavily on foreign sources of energy.

DISCUSSION: Radio ads by LCV have targeted three Republican congressmen: Reps. Greg Ganske (R-IA), Mark Kennedy (R-MN) and Rob Simmons (R-CT) with spots running in Des Moines, Iowa; St. Paul, Minnesota; and Hartford, Connecticut. Also supporting the ads are the Sierra Club, The Wilderness Society, US Public Interest Research Group and the Natural Resources Defense Council.

The arguments used by SUWA against drilling in ANWR are listed below with responses to each:

Charge: ANWR is the last great wilderness and provides habitat for 129,000 porcupine caribou as well as grizzlies, wolves, polar bears and millions of migratory birds.

Response: When drilling began in nearby Prudhoe Bay, the caribou herd there numbered 6,000. Today the heard numbers 28,000. Wildlife there is unharmed and with today's less-invasive drilling methods, wildlife will not be harmed if drilling is allowed in ANWR. Pipelines have even become "highways" for the animals. For photos of this go to http://www.anwr.org and click on "photo gallery."

Charge: Drilling in the Refuge will only supply 2 percent of our oil demands at any given time.

Response: The Energy Information Agency (EIA) says there is a virtual certainty of 5.7 billion barrels beneath the Refuge with 10.3 billion barrels being the expected amount of recoverable oil. This amount is equivalent to 11-30 years of imported oil from Saudi Arabia. This estimate made in 1998 was based on data, which by today's techniques underestimate discovered reserves. For the full report see: http://www.eia.doe.gov/pub/oil_gas/petroleum/analysis_publications/arctic_national_wildlife_refuge/html/execsummary.html.

Charge: Conservation and better auto fuel efficiency, alternative fuels and inflating our car tires fully would save more oil than what's estimated to be beneath the Refuge.

Response: Alternative fuels account for .2 percent of total vehicle fuel consumption in 2000, according to the Energy Information Agency (GAO-01-957T: Alternative Motor Fuels and Vehicles" July 10, 2001). Improved fuel efficiency is a goal to strive toward but it does not provide more fuel. With more efficient vehicles, people drive more miles.

Charge: 95% of Alaska's North Slope is open for exploration and development. Let's save the last 5%.

Response: Only 2000 acres of the 19.5 million acres of the Refuge are being considered for drilling. With the new directional drilling which allows drilling with fewer rigs and a very small pad as well as ice roads that melt in the summer, there would be a very small impact on the Refuge.

Charge: Since 1996 Prudhoe Bay oil fields and the Trans-Alaskan Pipeline have averaged 427 spills annually. Since Feb. 2001 13,000 gallons of oil have spilled. There is no "environmentally friendly" way to drill for oil.

Response: Inspectors recently found the source of a spill in the North Slope to be naturally occurring seepage from the oil field. Shallow deposits allow surface leaks of oil to bubble up out of the ground on its own (Anchorage Daily News, July 3, 2001). Modern methods of drilling allow dozens of wells into a 10-mile radius from a single location. For more technical information go to http://www.anwr.org/techno/techno.htm.

Charge: The bill would require an inventory of all federal lands, including BLM Wilderness Study Areas, BLM National Monuments, National Wildlife Refuges and National Forest Roadless Areas for coal and geothermal potential and would speed the issuance of drill permits.

Response: Why shouldn't the federal government finally inventory its land so, as citizens, we know what energy resources lie beneath it? A recent GAO report showed that the Department of Interior did "not have complete and accurate information on the lands within its control ("Government at the Brink: An Agency by Agency Examination of Federal Government Management Problems facing the Bush Administration" June, 2001 http://www.senate.gov/~gov_affairs/vol2.pdf)."

MORE INFORMATION: Fully 75% of Alaskans including the 90,000 member Alaska Federation of Native Peoples support the plan, according to the Arctic Slope Regional Corporation, an Inupiat tribal holding company (UPI story, July 26, 2001 by Mike Martin).

Labor unions also support opening ANWR to drilling because of the new jobs it would create. The Teamsters have come out in favor of President Bush's energy plan, stating that the building of pipelines and power plants would provide 1,000 new construction jobs per plant and 5,000 jobs per 1,000 miles of pipeline (letter to editor of the Chicago Sun-Times, July 9, 2001, from Bill Hogan, president of Joint Council 25, International Brotherhood of Teamsters).

Overall U.S. energy consumption is expected to increase by 30 percent over the next 20 years. We now produce 39 percent less oil than we did in 1970. 40 percent of our domestic gas resources are now off limits or subject to restrictions that make it difficult to develop (figures from Secretary of Energy Spencer Abraham's speech delivered May 24, 2001 at the Competitive Enterprise Institute (http://www.cei.org/PRReader.asp?ID=1489).

by Gretchen Randall, Director of Energy & Regulatory Affairs
The National Center for Public Policy Research

Contact the author at: 773-857-5086 or GRandall@nationalcenter.org
The National Center for Public Policy Research, Chicago office
3712 North Broadway - PMB 279
Chicago, IL 60613