The President’s proposal is just another example of environmental zealotry and pandering to those who don’t care much for economic development and state sovereignty. To call this refuge an “amazing wonder (to be) protected for future generations” is to reveal how little he knows about it. It is a frozen desert, although the pictures shown by environmental advocates would lead you to believe that it is something akin to the Garden of Eden with wildlife running around the base of the Brooks mountain range.
So let’s start with some facts, which are in short supply when this Administration talks about energy or the environment.
The Alaska National Wildlife Refuge is 19 million acres in size. That is about the size of the state of South Carolina and about the combined size of Vermont, New Hampshire, Massachusetts, and New Jersey. The area that would be subject to drilling is 2000 acres, which is about 3 times the size of Reagan National Airport or 1% of the wildlife refuge. The USGS has estimated that the area where drilling would take place is likely to hold 10.4 billion barrels of oil. That is the amount that was contained in the North Slope at Prudhoe Bay that has been producing oil, safely, for over 30 years. Since then the technology for drilling has significantly improved, so the so-called drilling “foot print” would be substantially smaller.
Opponents of drilling raise the threat to caribou and other wildlife. They made the same claims about Prudhoe Bay where wildlife have thrived, in part because there is no hunting. Today’s claims are just as false as they were then. And, when was the last time that anyone saw caribou in the area for potential drilling?
A “wilderness designation is forever and it extremely restrictive. The definition in the Wilderness Act is “wilderness, in contrast with those areas where man and his own works dominate the landscape, is hereby recognized as an area where the earth and its community of life are untrammeled by man, where man himself is a visitor who does not remain.” The designated area is roadless and motorized or mechanical vehicles are forbidden. Why would anyone want to designate a frozen desert a wilderness area?
The only reason for the President’s proposed action is his hostility towards oil, although he does like to take credit for the oil and gas renaissance that he had nothing to do with. The President has embarked on an energy-climate crusade that would cripple our economy if he got his way. Fortunately, this Congress will reject his proposal and rightly so. In making it however, the President is revealing once again that he has little or no interest in working with Congress on legislation that will create jobs and strengthen our economy. As the EU crumbles before our eyes, he wants to adopt the same policies that produced its economic stagnation.
The Alaskan people overwhelming favor exploration and production in ANWR as do the Inupiat Eskimos who live in ANWR. The will of the people is being totally disregarded because the government that the people created is no longer sensitive to the will of the people. That brings to mind Thomas Jefferson’s observation that a government big enough to give you all that you want is big enough to take all that you have.
This article appeared on the National Journal’s Energy Insiders weblog at http://www.nationaljournal.com/policy/insiders/energy/what-s-next-for-the-arctic-refuge-20150126