Number Crunching in Alaska and Why Drilling Isn’t the Answer

Reader Contribution by Aly Van Dyke
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Drilling for oil in Alaska is among one of the key issues of the political campaigns this year. Each party presents its own justifications for its proposals for ending this spiral of choking gas prices and dependency on foreign oil, but what are they not telling you?

Politicians, economists and that guy sitting in the cubicle across from yours who knows everything about everything, can talk until they’re blue in their faces, but when there’s a division on the economy and the environment, the only answers good enough for both sides are going to come from the numbers. So here they are. Use them for what you will, but that guy, he’ll be hearing from me.

Current Petroleum Consumption

*The U.S. consumes nearly 21 million barrels of petroleum every day – that’s 7.5 billion barrels a year.

*Sixty-six percent of that petroleum is imported.

*At the current pace, the U.S. will spend more than $500 billion on petroleum imports by the end of the year.

Drilling Won’t Solve Our Problems

*A 1998 U.S. Geological Survey estimated recoverable oil from the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR) would be about 10.4 billion barrels – the equivalent of one and a half years’ current consumption. A more recent study, released by the Department of Energy put recoverable oil between 1.9 billion and 4.3 billion barrels. The report addresses reasons for the discrepancy.

*Fifty-nine billion barrels would be recoverable from the Outer Continental Shelf (OCS), of which only 18 percent are off limits as per a federal moratorium. According to U.S. Department of Energy studies, lifting this ban would yield 1 percent our current consumption by the year 2030.

*DOE predicts ANWR oil reserves to reduce oil prices by 2 cents per gallon. Combined, lifting the moratoria on the OCS and ANWR would reduce the price by 6 cents, which wouldn’t be seen for another 10 years.

Alternatives Are Possible

*The new fuel-economy standard of 35 miles per gallon, as set by the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007, is projected to save more than 1.1 million barrels of oil per day in 2020. And people are learning how to make more fuel-efficient cars all the time.

*In time, oil imports could be reduced significantly with an electric public-transportation system and with restructuring urban transport.

*With the increasing production and modification of plug-in cars, vehicles could eventually be powered, at least partly so, from energy obtained through wind turbines. Here‘s an article about this very concept.