One of the biggest and most controversial arguments in politics today, is the idea of drilling for oil here in America. On one hand you have groups claiming it will boost the economy, and provide more jobs, while cutting foreign dependency and spending. On the other hand, you have people who claim that drilling here will do more damage to the environment, than it will good for the economy. Who is telling the truth?
The negative impact on the environment, when oil exploration activities are conducted, can be catastrophic. We witnessed what has been termed as the largest oil related disaster in American history, just 2 years ago when the BP owned Deepwater Horizon rig exploded, and oil flowed into the Gulf of Mexico for 3 solid months. There is no doubt that this caused major environmental issues all along the Gulf, and at the same time, caused fuel prices around the world to increase. Disasters such as this, and the Exxon-Valdez disaster, which involved an oil tanker in the Prince William Sound of Alaska, can not be written off. These 2 incidents caused more environmental damage, than any other human caused disasters in our history.
How often do issues like these occur? How much is the environment really hampered by oil exploration? The truth is, these types of disasters are rare in the oil business, especially with the tough regulations in place, which govern how the oil industry extracts, relocates, and stores its oil supplies. The oil industry is one of the most stringently regulated industries in the world. The governments of nearly every country in the world keep a close eye on oil companies, such as Chesapeake Energy Corporation (NYSE:CHK), and BP plc (NYSE:BP).
What would the benefits of drilling in America be, and would they outweigh the environmental impact of drilling?
One of the most controversial, yet oil rich fields in North America, is the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, in Alaska. Also known as ANWR, this area of 1.5 billion acres, holds the richest supply of oil, anywhere on U.S. property. However, though we could easily harvest enough oil there to meet our country’s needs for many generations to come, politicians have never given the go ahead to drill in the refuge.
Environmental groups have continuosly lobbied for ANWR to remain untouched by oil giants, citing that the damage to the environment would far outweigh the benefits of harvesting the oil. They claim that animal life would be greatly impacted, as well as native American tribes being forced to move their homes. But, do the facts support the claims of damage to the environment?
The fact is, that the amount of land inside the refuge, which would actually be physically affected by oil exploration is minimal. Out of 1.5 billion acres, only 2,000 of them would actually be damaged, according to a report published in the Minnesota Daily, by Andy Post, in 2008. This patch of land would be roughly equal in size to JFK Airport, in NY City. In other words, the damage to the land itself, would be minimal.
How would it affect animal life? Oil companies have taken extraodinary measures to protect the environment they work in. In fact, in the Prudhoe Bay area, the Caribou population was actually increased, from 3,000 to 32,000 by local citizens and oil companies working together to help protect the herd. So, the claim that oil companies kill off wildlife can be nullified.
One other thing, which Post mentions in his article, is the fact that former President George W. Bush and Governor Tim Pawlenty, have statistically outperformed any Democrat, when it comes to enforing environmental protection laws. It is understood that their offices allow them the power to help push legislation, however the point is, that protecting the environment is not just a Democratic trait. It is indeed done from both sides of the aisle.
How would it affect indigenous people? Many lobbyists claim that oil exploration would hurt local Inuit tribes, and that the population would never accept the oil companies being allowed to drill in their land. However, polls from all across Alaska, show that the local people support the idea, citing that it would increase jobs in Alaska, provide an economic boom, and cut the nation’s foreign dependency on oil.
According to ANWR.org, drilling in the patch of land would produce 1 million barrels per day, which is equal to what the U.S. imports from Saudi Arabia, at a price tag of $50 billion per year. It would take approximately 5 to 10 years, according to estimates, to actually begin having the new oil flwoing into our system. However, the announcement that the U.S is exploring for oil in ANWR, would be enought to cause prices to drop. Experts say, that with the knowledge that there are billions of gallons of oil available in ANWR, other oil supplers would drop their prices on the news that we are planning to drill.
All of the evidence shows that drilling in ANWR would be profitable to the U.S, and it can be done with minimal environmental impact. No one wants another oil catastrophe, and safeguards are in place to help ensure that these events do not occur. With the oil companies working with local citizens to ensure minimal environmental damage, and following guidelines, we could indeed, see a huge benefit from exploring this area.
Drilling in ANWR would not only force oil prices lower, but would create thousands of jobs, boost the U.S. and Alaskan economies, and allow us to cut foreign dependency.
Oil prices are currently above $93 per barrel, and this drives the cost of fuel at the pump to an average of more than $3.50 per gallon. Gone are the days of the $0.88 per gallon gasoline, and we may never see them again. However, we can reduce prices from their current rate by drilling here in the U.S. Our natural oilfields here, are among the richest in the world, and not utilizing the energy from them could be the worst mistake in U.S. economics yet.