- The Washington Times - Thursday, October 12, 2000

"We were caught napping," Secretary of Energy Bill Richardson candidly admitted at February's New England Heating Oil Summit in the midst of the exploding world price of crude oil and the soaring price for home heating oil in northeast America. "It's obvious the federal government was not prepared," Mr. Richardson further acknowledged. "We got complacent."

If complacency or an occasional nap were the only energy crimes the Clinton-Gore administration had committed, the consequences facing the United States today would be far less severe than they are. In fact, the actions of the administration were far worse. On the energy front, the Clinton-Gore administration is clearly guilty of either extreme incompetence or deliberate obstructionism. The current state of affairs can be traced to the radical environmentalism of Vice President Gore, who has written that the internal combustion engine is "more deadly than … any military enemy we are ever again likely to confront." Mr. Gore's steadfast opposition to domestic oil exploration in the most promising areas over the past eight years has significantly contributed to the tight oil markets currently afflicting the global economy.

Nowhere is the vice president's shortsightedness more blatantly evident and the adverse consequences so severe than in his opposition to oil exploration and production in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR), a 1.5-million acre, largely barren expanse in northern Alaska adjacent to Prudhoe Bay, where about 10 billion barrels of oil were discovered in 1968. More than any other energy issue, the status of ANWR represents the biggest difference between Mr. Gore and George W. Bush, the Republican presidential nominee who wants to tap the vast oil wealth of ANWR.

For eight years, the Clinton-Gore administration has blocked oil exploration in ANWR, where as many as 16 billion barrels of oil may be located, according to the U.S. Geological Survey. Deploying a trick that environmentalists used in their thankfully unsuccessful efforts to block exploration in Prudhoe Bay, Mr. Gore has consistently downplayed the likelihood that the ANWR reserves would be substantial. And he has feverishly overstated the likely environmental consequences of oil development, just as the Prudhoe Bay opponents had done, only to be proved grossly wrong.

How much is 16 billion barrels of oil? Over a 20-year period, 16 billion barrels would provide 2.2 million barrels per day (bpd) of domestic output to the U.S. market. At a price of $30 per barrel, the total economic value would be nearly $500 billion. At a price of $20 per barrel, the value of ANWR's potential oil deposits would be $320 billion.

Since Mr. Gore has snubbed his nose at as much as 2.2 million barrels per day, it is fair to ask: How have U.S. oil production and oil imports changed during the Clinton-Gore administration? According to the Energy Information Administration in Mr. Richardson's own department not everyone seems to have been napping over there domestic oil production has declined every year of the Clinton-Gore administration. U.S. oil output averaged 7.2 million bpd in 1992. In 2000, oil output will be 5.8 million bpd, representing a decline of nearly 20 percent compared to 1992. Meanwhile, imports of crude oil will likely average more than 9 million bpd in 2000. In August, the U.S. imported 9.5 million bpd of crude oil. That represents a nearly 60 percent increase in dependence upon foreign crude oil since 1992. The nation also imported another 2 million bpd of petroleum products that month. Here is the kicker: In July, the last month for which data are available, America imported 750,000 bpd from Saddam Hussein.

Dependence upon foreign sources, including Iraq, for petroleum resources now totals nearly 11 million bpd. And it is rising, as demand increases and domestic supply continues to plunge. Meanwhile, Mr. Gore and his environmental friends celebrate their obstructionist victories in ANWR.

The United States is now importing three times the amount of crude oil it imported in 1973, the first year of the first of three previous oil crises, each of which resulted in a recession. In a Gore-Lieberman administration and afterwards, the dependence upon foreign oil would certainly accelerate. After four or eight years of Gore-Lieberman, "napping" will have reached Rip Van Winkle proportions.

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