- The Washington Times - Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Benefits vs. costs of drilling in ANWR

In “ANWR drilling overdue” (Commentary, Sunday) Paul Driessen makes the case for drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. The counter-argument includes the fact that if we had drilled back when proponents first sought to do so, the oil would already be gone. We can thank opponents of ANWR drilling for the fact that we still have oil there today. We can only pump this oil once. It doesn’t make sense to drain the last of our oil just to continue our urban sprawl, highway-building, sport-utility-vehicle craze for a little longer.

But circumstances are changing. Many oil experts believe that global oil production will enter decline around 2010, which is roughly as soon as we could bring ANWR into production. ANWR likely has over 10 times the oil as is in our Strategic Petroleum Reserve. Of course, if we use it up, it won’t. That points to ANWR’s best purpose — as an extension of our oil reserve to be used only in case of emergency.

ANWR drilling proponents have to date tried to get access on the cheap. Just throw it in with the Iraq war funding and folks will have to vote for it. They claim this is necessary because it can’t pass without being tied to a must-have bill. The truth is they haven’t tried. A genuine compromise would best serve the national interest. In return for allowing ANWR to serve as a petroleum reserve, drilling advocates should accept measures such as diverting highway funds to transit and serious increases in fuel-efficiency standards.

CARL HENN

Rockville

Ben Lieberman makes a strong case in favor of drilling in Alaska’s Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, and he’s right to hold up Prudhoe Bay as an example of how drilling did not result in environmental catastrophe (“Alaska oil drilling myths,” Commentary, Tuesday). Any provision to allow drilling should make certain that the same environmental-preservation standards are upheld in ANWR.

However, developing ANWR is important for another reason, one that Mr. Lieberman does not mention. Domestic oil production has declined, from 9 million barrels per day in 1985 to 6.6 million barrels per day in 1996 (and the projection is 5 million in 2010).

In 2010, though, ANWR drilling will still be 10 years away, according to some estimates. Congress can vote to open ANWR to development, but the development will take about 15 years. So, those who say we don’t need oil from ANWR now should think about what we will need in two decades.

Finally, If ANWR is worth 10 billion barrels of oil and the United States currently imports more than 10 million barrels of oil per day, how valuable can this reserve be, and for how long? Developing ANWR is the right move, but it can’t be the only move the United States makes to increase our oil independence. The demand also must be addressed, not just the supply. ANWR oil could, in all likelihood, bring U.S. production back to its 1985 level — for a while. ANWR oil is a crutch, not a solution.

DAVE O’CONNOR

New York City

Suppose your living room floor is a map of Alaska. In scale, ANWR would be about 3 feet by 3 feet. More than 90 percent of that would be mountainous and unsuitable for drilling. That leaves an area of the coastal plain, less than 1 square foot in size. Of that, just 2,000 acres would be disturbed for drilling. That scales to about half the size of your thumbnail on our living room floor map. Suppose you had a disastrous incident that covered the whole drilling area, all drilling sites at once exploded, covering 2,000 acres with crude. That would compare to spilling a drop or two of oil on your living room carpet. Now, this drop-of-oil spill didn’t take place out in the middle of the room, where everyone walks. It happened in an extremely remote region, so spill your drop of oil behind the sofa, where no one but the cat ever goes.

So tell me, in the grand scheme of things, what kind of impact would such a “disaster” really have on the world?

JOHN BEASLEY

Kitty Hawk, N.C.

Note to Fonda: Soldiers not ‘killing machines’

I read with interest your classification of Jane Fonda as knave of the week for calling our troops “killing machines,” having been trained differently since Vietnam because soldiers were not killing enough during World War II and Korea (“Nobles and knaves,” Editorial, Saturday).

Let me offer three personal examples of why I think she is playing loose with the facts again. First, in 1983 in Grenada, one of our most highly trained “killing machines,” a sergeant first class with the 82nd Airborne Division, stopped his men from firing on 19 Cubans who were putting up stiff resistance from inside a building that the 82nd had surrounded. The sergeant got on a bullhorn and in fluent Spanish told the Cubans that they had 15 minutes to surrender and live or they would all die in the overwhelming firepower surrounding them. The Cubans threw out their weapons and surrendered. No lives lost.

Second, in 1989 in Panama, as U.S. forces were freeing Panamanians from Manuel Noriega’s violent grip, Gen. Wayne Downing, commanding general of U.S. Special Operations Forces and a major planning figure in Operation Just Cause, saved countless Panamanian and Cuban lives in a brilliant demonstration by our Army’s most efficient “killing machine.”

Noriega was pinned down in Panama City, and the Panamanian Defense Forces (PDF) in the city were spent. However, significant PDF forces still existed in the several Panamanian Special Tactical Zones (STZ) throughout the countryside.

Gen. Downing flew at night in a Special Operations Spectre C130, an aircraft outfitted with high-powered night-vision optics, communications gear and laser-accurate weapons, to each STZ, where he called the local commander on a radio phone link and told him to watch a specific vehicle located on the Panamanian installation.

Within the next few minutes, the C130 destroyed that vehicle in a ball of fire. Gen. Downing then called the local commander and gave him instructions to move all his people to an open area on his installation; to ground all of their military equipment; and to march back to the front of the building and remain there until U.S. forces arrived to arrange their surrender. Failure to follow these specific instructions would result in complete destruction from the air. Every local commander complied, and not one more life was taken.

The third example took place in Desert Storm, where the 24th Infantry Division raced across Iraq in a huge left hook that caught many of Iraq’s Republican Guards trying to flee north and west out of Kuwait. One young U.S. Army captain, commanding a flight of one of the Army’s most accurate and effective “killing machines,” the Apache attack helicopter, spotted a long trail of Iraqi armored vehicles trying to escape from Kuwait along a skinny dike leading to one of the few bridges across the Euphrates River. The Apache commander told his gunner to take out the lead tank in the column and his wingman to take out the last, blocking escape in every direction.

That young, specially trained “killing machine” then told his pilots to hold their fire until each crew had scrambled out of its tank and run to safety across the bridge. He then systematically destroyed each armored vehicle in the column using the Apache’s laser-guided missiles.

In each case, Army soldiers from sergeant through general acted in an honorable and humane manner even though each had the opportunity to become a “killing machine.” The facts argue against Jane Fonda’s assertions, again. You may have declared her lightheartedly to be the knave of the week; we would prefer to see that Hanoi Jane be excluded from the game.

BOB SEIGLE

Burke

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