- The Washington Times - Saturday, May 12, 2001

Little analysis is required to recognize that the United States is on the verge of an energy crisis. As the member of two committees in Congress with jurisdiction over energy issues appropriations and resources I can tell you that the situation is even more grim than many Americans realize. California´s power blackouts are expected to get worse and expand to other states. Increasing natural gas prices in the Northeast last winter were an extreme hardship on low-income families and are expected to be even higher next year. Just this week, it was reported that gas prices are already hovering around the $2 per gallon mark and could increase to as high as $3 per gallon in the near future.

America is 58 percent dependent on foreign oil, much of which comes from the politically unstable, volatile Middle Eastern region of the world. At the same time, we are unable to meet the electricity needs of the West. While we have made headway in searching for alternative sources of energy such as hydrogen fuel cell and clean coal technology, these alternatives are years away from being able to solve our long-term energy needs.

The bottom line is that while our energy consumption is increasing each year, our ability to supply energy is predicted to remain virtually flat. Moreover, the regulation and licensing procedures associated with nuclear and hydro power are making these sources less feasible and more likely to decrease.

Our energy problems are complicated, and, unfortunately, there is no single, simple solution. It is clear, however, that any solution must begin with conservation, development of alternative fuels such as hydrogen fuel cells and clean coal technology, as well as a plan to become less dependent on foreign sources for our energy. To achieve these goals, it is imperative that we use a common-sense approach in utilizing the abundant resources that are available to us now. As Congress and the president work to develop America´s energy policy, the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR) in Alaska should be a component. It is certainly not the only component, but we have an enormous resource that must be utilized. It is a matter of good public policy.

Unfortunately, we are faced with the obstacles of misinformation regarding the use of ANWR.

Here are the facts. The Arctic National Wildlife Refuge is federal land in northern Alaska and encompasses 19 million acres. The U.S. Geological Survey has estimated that up to 16 billion barrels of oil can be extracted from a mere one-tenth of 1 percent of this refuge, or 2,000 acres. And 99.9 percent of ANWR would not have to be touched to gain access to this oil.

ANWR contains enough oil to completely replace the oil we import from Iraq for 58 years. It is that simple.

Most important, this oil could be extracted while leaving minimal footprints on the environment. First, drilling would be done during the winter months and only ice roads would be built. In the spring when the ice melts, the roads would disappear. Additionally, advances in technology now allow us to drill larger amounts of oil from smaller openings in the ground. Multilateral wells, directional drilling and extended-reach wells are an example of environmentally sound drilling techniques.

Finally, opponents also claim that the vast caribou population could be threatened by opening ANWR. These opponents must have overlooked the fact that, based on scientific observations, the population of caribou has increased fivefold since oil development began in another area of Alaska in the 1970s.

It´s also important to note that the overwhelming majority of Alaskans support the opening of ANWR. They support it because they understand the benefits, know the facts and ignore the misinformation.

The bottom line is that we are facing an energy crisis, and while a comprehensive energy policy is needed, ANWR should be a part of it. We have enormous potential to become less reliant on other nations for our energy, but must act now before our energy problems cause devastating damage to our economy. If we don´t, we have only seen the beginning of some very tough times.


REP. JOHN E. PETERSON

Washington


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