Alls Well that Ends in Oil

     First, a little background about ANWR for the newly initiated into this perennial endeavor. The Arctic National Wildlife Refuge is an enormous wildlife sanctuary in the northeast part of Alaska. When I say enormous, Im not kidding. ANWR is 19 million acres. Thats three times the size of Maryland.

     According to the U.S. Geological Survey, ANWR is estimated to have up to 16 billion barrels of oil. At $70 a barrel, that could be worth as much $1.1 trillion. That number is so incredible, many smaller calculators simply cant handle it. Eight or even nine digits are not enough. All that oil also could add up to almost 750,000 jobs here in the United States.

     To get at that black gold, as it used to be called, could take five to 10 years. With modern technology that allows drilling on a slant, we need to develop about 2,000 acres out of 19 million leaving 99.99 percent untouched.

     That should be simple. We have a nation thirsting for oil and Alaska holds a vast amount of it. But nothing in Washington is ever simple.

     Environmentalists oppose drilling because they fear it might hurt the caribous living room and breeding grounds, along with some species of birds and other creatures. They paint a picture that makes the area appear like some vast National Zoo.

     The Feb. 4, 2001, 60 Minutes showed reporter Lesley Stahl taking a trip to the proposed drilling location.

     It was a barren wasteland more similar to Siberia than Eden.

     Stahl interviewed Deborah Williams, a former Clinton Interior Department official who headed the Alaska Conservation Foundation. Williams showed how uncompromising the environmental movement really is. There are no conditions that would deal with the irretrievable loss of wilderness, she said, no matter how much oil is there.

     Williams even compared the site to the Everglades and Redwoods. Of course it looks nothing like those places, but the media gush just as openly. Bill Weir of ABCs Good Morning America called it truly an awe-inspiring place during a June 12, 2005, broadcast.

     So far, ANWR drilling has been beaten in Congress or squashed by President Bill Clinton. When Bush took over, ANWR was a big part of his plans. Whats especially funny is that the media consistently try to paint the recent rise in gas prices as Bushs fault, as well. Back in 2001, he already was laying out a plan addressing what he calls the worst energy crisis since the 70s, according to Joie Chen of The Early Show.

     Bush wasnt the only one who warned us to do something.

     ABCs Sam Donaldson rejected a similar concern in an April 1, 2001, interview with Energy Secretary Spencer Abraham. Well, some people think that you are talking up an energy crisis you and the president to try to be able to sell drilling in the Arctic Wildlife Refuge, he told Abraham on This Week.

     Gas was selling for about $1.55 a gallon in April that year a little more than half what it costs now. I wonder if Donaldson still thinks thats a manufactured crisis.

     Maybe he ought to talk with one of the other folks Stahl found on her trip to Alaska Ken Boyd, former director of that states Division of Oil and Gas. Boyd, back in February 2001, put the debate in terms any of us can relate to today.

     I can imagine somebody in Iowa or Kansas or something saying, Well, I don't have any problems. I can go out and buy my gas for $1.35 and my house is heated and I'm happy. What do I care about ANWR? I might as well say close it. But Boyd added that public opinion could change on the day when, you know, all of a sudden, gasoline is $3 a gallon and their home isn't warm and they haven't got enough gas.

     Were about there. Nearly $3 a gallon, still no drilling and our future is at risk because were afraid to drill in the supposed living room of the caribou. I cant speak for the caribou, but I dont care if they are bothered by a 2,000-acre project hidden among 19 million acres. For billions of barrels of oil, Big Oil can drill in the middle of my living room.

Dan Gainor is a career journalist and The Boone Pickens Free Market Fellow. He is also director of the Media Research Centers Business & Media Institute