Saturday, June 3, 2006

Although the United States, according to the journal World Oil, has less than 2 percent (22 billion barrels) of the world’s proved oil reserves (1.265 trillion barrels), U.S. petroleum consumption last year accounted for about 25 percent (21 million barrels per day) of the world’s oil supplies (84 million barrels per day). So let us stipulate at the outset that the United States will not drill itself toward oil independence. However, it does not follow from the two preceding statements that the United States should abandon any reasonable opportunities to significantly increase domestic crude oil output, which has declined from 9 million barrels per day in 1985 to 5.1 million barrels per day last year. Indeed, every barrel of U.S. oil output represents one less barrel that must be imported from a world oil market in which the volatile Middle East controls nearly two-thirds (about 800 billion barrels) of total proved reserves.

The U.S. Geological Survey has estimated that the so-called 1002 area (approximately 1.5 million acres) of the 19-million-acre Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR) along Alaska’s northern coastal plain contains a mean expected value of 10.4 billion barrels of technically recoverable oil. That is the nation’s single largest onshore oil reserve. Thus, if Congress and the president were to jointly approve oil exploration in ANWR, U.S. proved oil reserves would likely increase by nearly 50 percent. Moreover, the Interior Department has estimated that “ANWR could produce nearly 1.4 million barrels of oil” per day. Had President Clinton not vetoed the 1995 congressional authorization to explore for oil in ANWR, production there would be in full swing now.

Critics rightly contend that ANWR output of 1.4 million barrels per day would have replaced only about 10 percent of U.S. petroleum imports last year. Proponents of ANWR production rightly respond that the same level of output would have increased by about 125 percent the refinable unused capacity in today’s very tight world oil market, exerting countervailing pressure against soaring oil prices in recent years. While ANWR output is not a sufficient condition for significantly reducing U.S. dependence on foreign oil, it clearly is a necessary condition toward that goal.

Late last month, by a vote of 225-201, the House passed a bill authorizing the Interior Department to grant leases for oil and gas exploration and development along ANWR’s coastal plain. Eighty-six percent of House Democrats opposed the measure, while 86 percent of House Republicans supported it. In the public interest, the names of the 27 Democrats who supported the bill and the 30 Republicans who opposed it are listed below. A subsequent editorial will examine how ANWR has fared in the Senate.

Democratic representatives supporting ANWR exploration: Marion Berry, Mike Ross (AR); Sanford Bishop (GA); Dan Boren (OK); Allen Boyd (FL); Robert Brady, Paul Kanjorski, John Murtha (PA); Dennis Cardoza, Jim Costa (CA); Robert Cramer, Artur Davis (AL); Henry Cuellar, Chet Edwards, Al Green, Gene Green, Ruben Hinojosa, Solomon Ortiz, Silvestre Reyes (TX); Lincoln Davis (TN); William Jefferson, Charlie Melancon (LA); Colin Peterson (MN); Ike Skelton (MO); John Tanner (TN); Gene Taylor, Bennie Thompson (MS).

Republican representatives opposing ANWR exploration: Tom Davis (VA); Roscoe Bartlett, Wayne Gilchrest (MD); Charles Bass, Jeb Bradley (NH); Sherwood Boehlert (NY); Michael Castle (DE); Vernon Ehlers, Joe Schwarz (MI); Mike Ferguson, Rodney Frelinghuysen, Frank LoBiondo, H. James Saxton, Christopher Smith (NJ); Michael Fitzpatrick, Jim Gerlach (PA); Bob Inglis (SC); Nancy Johnson, Christopher Shays, Rob Simmons (CT); Timothy Johnson, Mark Steven Kirk (IL); Sue Kelly, James Walsh (NY); Mark Kennedy, Jim Ramstad (MN); Jim Leach (IA); Tom Petri, James Sensenbrenner (WI); Dave Reichert (WA).

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