I Drill, You Drill, We All Drill in ANWR

Solar panels on White HouseI was recently sent an email arguing for for drilling in ANWR. This email dovetails very nicely into a recent Republican strategy which can be summed up in a phrase: drilling our way out of the oil crisis.

For everyone over the age of 25, we’ve been here before. In late 1970s, as oil prices began to skyrocket, we had a debate in this country over oil and energy independence. Our president at the time was Jimmy Carter argued for conservation. Carter and a Democratic Congress who pushed for higher fuel standards in cars. He asked Americans to turn down thermostats. He even had a fireside chat from the White House wearing a sweater. He argued for development of alternative energy. President Carter went so far as to put solar panels on the White House.

Since 1980, we lived under a Republican dominated government. President Reagan could not wait to take down solar panels. There was no push from the Reagan administration or either of the two Bush administrations for conservation, for higher fuel standards or for developing alternative energies. Instead, slowly but surely, we’ve injected more and more of our money into oil technology. The pinnacle of the strategy was for the current Bush administration to actually give our tax dollars to the “failing” oil industry. The results of these policies is nothing short of déjà vu all over again. We are currently in another oil crisis. We have the opportunity to either learn from the past or to push America back into oil dependence.

I’m not an energy expert but I do know that we have to decrease our dependence on oil. I guess there are two ways to look at this. We can either wean ourselves off of our dependence or we can stop cold turkey. It is hard for me to understand how drilling anywhere, whether in northern Alaska or off our shores, will help us reach our goal of energy independence from the Middle East (remember they are the guys that hate us). Instead, more drilling seems to be the equivalent giving just “a little bit” of heroin to a heroin addict.

Either through regulation or through tax incentives, we have to encourage business to pump tens of billions of dollars into developing alternative energies. There won’t be one simple solution. Instead, there should be multiple solutions to our energy problem. In some areas of the country solar panels make sense. In other areas of the country, wind power and tidal power may be the answer. As far as nuclear energy, I think France has shown that nuclear energy can be done safely. My problem with nuclear energy is that we end up with radioactive waste that will decay over thousands of years. We, as a country, have not decided what to do with this nuclear waste. Nobody seems to want it in their backyard. Therefore, until the problem of how to dispose of nuclear waste is decided, it seems reckless to build more nuclear reactors.

Finally, we have to address the politics of this situation. Republicans have clearly had a mutual and symbiotic relationship with big business over the last 30 to 40 years (probably much longer). If Republicans are pushing an idea, you can be guaranteed that the idea is not helping the average American worker. Instead, the idea helps big business. Drilling everywhere will clearly help big business. How does it help the average American today and tomorrow? With the oil industry owning over 4000 undeveloped and unexplored oil leases off the American coasts, it seems to me that we need to develop what we have before we look for more. We can help the average American worker by developing energy alternatives which will open tens of thousands of jobs in these fields. Now, that’s a plan that will put money into the pocket of the average American worker.

14 Responses

  1. first, If you can’t understand how getting the middle east oil from a different source allows us to be independent from them… then you really haven’t thought hard enough about it.

    secondly, comparing energy usage to heroin usage is a HORRIBLE analogy… you and I both know that. If we all switched 100% of our energy usage to solar panels tomorrow, would you say we have a heroin-like addiction to the Sun??? Of course not. Environmentalist addiction to clean energy is really more like a heroin addict… they don’t need it but they keep shooting up for that euphoric feeling “saving the planet” gives them. Find a better analogy.

    Thirdly, you on the one hand… say we should cut our energy usage… but then criticize oil companies for not drilling using their leases. That’s a pretty bad argument. Speaking of Anwar… There is a REASON we want to drill there…. it’s called KNOWN RESERVES. These leases are not X million guaranteed barrels of oil… they are just leases on land that probably don’t have anywhere NEAR to the KNOWN reserves of Anwar.


    The best way to help the typical “american worker” is to find the energy source that is the most available, abundant, and cheapest so that he or she can be as competitive as possible in the global marketplace. Swithcing our country over to another energy source just makes us less competitive on the global market — which will ultimately harm the typical american worker.

    I actually think ocean-current technology is something worth exploring… but we definitely need something in the interem… we can’t peg all our hopes on theoretical solutions that have not been proven… we need to live in the present…. and that present involves every family owning 2+ automobiles…

  2. Please don’t let the oil shale and oit tar sands think it will get us anywhere. Bush is pushing for government investment and release of investment dollars. The problem is it takes a HUGE amount of very precious western water to even get anything out of either source. Then there is the HUGE amount of tailings that have to be dumped somewhere. Bush makes it sound like “why haven’t we tapped into this the democrats just want to keep us on foreign oil?” But Colorado knows the waste of money. Canada has some success in developing this source. They have the water. Unfortunately Utah is fighting Nevada over their tapping into the aquafier under the state border. We are so desperate for clean usable water that the Nuclear power plants, oil shale experiments will take from the colorado river will dry up the drinking water and farmland we have now. They tried to make the oil shale work but if Canada can develope it with their resorces then let them but leave our desert states alone.

  3. Totally forgot. They would have to build 5 new coal plants just to produce the energy to crush the shale. What we do have in the west is SUN and GEO THERMAL energy sources. Which congress voted down last year to give tax incentives for development. Doesn’t make sense does it. Neither power source polutes

  4. Joel –

    I’m sorry you don’t like the analogy but I think that it fits pretty well. I think that it is clear that burning fossil fuels isn’t good for the environment like heroin isn’t good for your body. With the number of cases of childhood asthma dramatically increasing every year, I would say that smog and air pollution are killing our bodies. Yep, I like the analogy.

    None of the estimates for the amount of oil available or even hopefully available in ANWR or off our coastlines will significantly decrease our dependence on foreign oil. Even the most optimist estimates have us continuing our habit and relying on the Middle East to supply it.

    Finally, the American worker needs a better paying job. That what is needed. Alternative energy should help supply millions of good paying jobs.

    Thanks for your comments.

  5. M –

    You are right. I didn’t even touch the fantasy of “clean coal” or shale or all of the other non-renewable fossil fuels.

    thanks for your comments.

  6. Hey, I’ll try to keep this nice (although it IS a challenge!) Look, I never claimed we would become completely energy independent… only that we might be able to replace the current supply from the middle-east. (Which I think is doable… especially given we get only 15% of our US oil consumption from the middle east (most comes from Canada, Mexico, Brazil, the UK, Nigeria, Angola)


    And why on earth would we NEED to be completely energy independent in the first place? What’s so bad about buying oil from Canada? It’s called the principle of comparative advantage… we produce what we are most efficient at producing… and use our profits to buy what other countries are most efficient at making… there is no rational reason why we should abandon the global market in this ONE commodity. Can you enlighten me?

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Comparative_advantage (I’m sure YOU know this… but for the benefit of your readers)

    Finally, why should WE pay for all this change when the rest of the world is going to keep on using the same, carbon-based systems… and completely outpace us… why should we have to scale back when nobody else will? Did you see how many COAL power-plants China is on track to build??? Eight-Hundred-And-Fifty! do you think solar panels are going to save the world when China is adding this many COAL plants into the mix? Where’s the outrage over China’s environmentally damaging ways??? I’d love to hear some of that on this blog.


    Look, every liberal/conversationalist “solution” to the energy problem has so-far proven to be at best, equally damaging

    > ethanol–which takes more energy to produce than we get from it,
    > fluorescent light-bulbs that release argon gas into the atmosphere,
    > hybrids that start with a 100K carbon footprint and require dangerous batteries which can’t be disposed safely

    and at worst, unproven and unworkable

    > hydrogen-based autos,
    > Ocean currents,
    > Windmills that take 20 acres to provide a fraction of the power of coal or nuclear plants)…
    > the list goes on and on…

    Look, Carbon Dioxide is a GOOD THING… we need it to survive… it’s not killing us… it’s making our lives better. its just a fact.

  7. you know I have to agree partially (1%) with Joel. Brazil can produce ethanol for 1/4 of the energy it costs us to produce it from corn. There are tariffs on importing it from Brazil. They make if from replenishable sugar cane and they only have to cut it like grass not replant. Bush refused to reverse the tariff and allow them to import it to the US. The tariff tax is set to expire in 2009 ( I think) which should give us a chance at allowing this additive to gas be brought in cheaply and not polute the planet the way corn does.or take away from the food chain. If there is a country that makes what other countries need better then I don’t see a problem . But the countries buying that product should also have enough alternatives to help in the mix. What would happen if we refused to ship our commodities to feed some countries and hoard the food here. Refusing to send it to the countries that buy the food we grow.
    As far as China is concerned i think the world is going to get a wake up view of what those coal factories are causing to the environment. But to say we won’t cut back because India and China won’t is the most childish statement leaders could make. But then again they won’t be alive that long so why would they care. I hear that more and more from people. I am not going to give up my way of living because I don’t care what happens i won’t be alive.
    There are alot of us who believe in helping to preserve what GOD has created. Not destroy because of greed of others. We have had too many years of the greed of a few destroying the beauty of what God has created. I wish the evangelical would get their act together and start demanding we clean up the earth. Bush has done enough damage.

  8. Joel –

    As we celebrate the 100th anniversary of the Model T let’s look at the inventions that have come along. 100 years ago the model T really wasn’t a practical car. There really were many roads. The roads that we had really weren’t that good. Axils were a huge problem. They broke frequently. The suspension was a joke. Radiators were awful. There was no power steering and no turn signals. Window shield wipers were terrible. There was no safety devices.

    Now, just look at air bags. 35 years ago, many people were telling us that they were impossible. There is no way to make them work without killing the passenger. Then with continued infusion of money the air bag was perfected.

    Hydrogen cars and electric cars will be perfected but they need to have that infusion of money. As long as we continue to cling to a finite resource the technology needed for hydrogen cars and electric cars will not be developed. We have already seen the development of non-toxic batteries for some of the electric cars.

    I appreciate you continuing to try to be nice. I don’t think that any discussion needs to get nasty.

    I’m amazed that you would want to hang on to something that we know is going to run out. (I agree that we don’t know when they will run out.) We know that burning fossil fuels hasn’t been good for the environment or our lungs. Forget the global warming argument for a minute. Just remember the breathing in Houston, LA or NY in the summer. Studies have shown the rate of childhood asthma increases with smog level so the harm is clear. Over 5 million children suffer from this disease costing over $10 billion in 1994.

    Finally, if we don’t believe in American ingenuity then I think that you are right. we need to stick with fossil fuels until they run out and hope for the best. On the other hand, I look at air bags, crumple zones, roll bars and seat belts and see that we can overcome problems that seems impossible to some just a few short years ago.

  9. There must be something in the water, or being rained down on us from the sky. It seems to me people are becoming more apathetic, docile and compliant with each passing day.

    I am certainly no energy scholar or expert, but I have read that we could supply vast amounts of solar energy by placing solar panels in the Mojave desert. If this is true why don’t we. I realize how naive that statement sounds, by the way.

  10. Richard –

    You are partially correct. We can use the resources of the desert. We would need better technology in order to ship the energy to distant places. Currently we have problems storing and transferring energy. Storing the energy of hydro-electric dams is just one example. We use everything that we make. If demand decreases, we have decrease the amount of energy generated.

    thanks for your comments.

  11. Richard makes a point however, after visiting the desert country in Utah this past memorial day. I asked the same thing. There is constant wind through the canyons and around the canyons. It would take alot of money to run the lines, towers and processing plants. The power company would also have to install the panels and the wind turbines. They are doing this at the canyon bases in northern Utah where it is closer to the power grid. The desert areas have lots of sun and wind. But it would be building the grid connections that would have to be paid for and why should they stick their necks out when they already have permission to build 5 new coal plants right outside Zion’s and Bryce national parks. Where it is closer to the grid system supplying Los Angeles.It is all about money not the environment.

    Drilling for oil in Alaska is only going to go to the highest bidder and if there is another accident like Valdez.. Who suffers???? Not the purchasers of the oil. It will be our land. Utah is fighting bringing in Italy nuclear waste. The rest of the nation maynot mind them shipping it here. But if something happens like someone decides to blow it up who will it effect.? Not Italy!!

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Errington C. Thompson, MD

Dr. Thompson is a surgeon, scholar, full-time sports fan and part-time political activist. He is active in a number of community projects and initiatives. Through medicine, he strives to improve the physical health of all he treats.


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