Canceled drilling leases hurts us
Last updated 9/26/2023 at 10:28am
While media focus was on Joe Biden’s decree putting a tiny plot of land within the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge off limits to oil and gas exploration, reporters ignored the bigger story.
Biden’s other proclamation forbids tapping more than 10 million acres within the National Petroleum Reserve in Alaska, a 23-million-acre area on Alaska’s North Slope. That is the area which should replenish the crude oil drawdown stemming from Biden’s oil withdrawal from strategic wells established in case of war.
Allowing new Alaska exploration would help our refineries, workers and state and local economies.
Our state’s refineries are equipped with sophisticated safety and pollution control equipment—the best in the world.
ANWR is not the picturesque landscape you might imagine, with towering snow-capped peaks and lush green forests. It is 19 million acres of frozen desert which is larger than the states of Massachusetts, New Jersey, Hawaii, Connecticut and Delaware combined.
Although the 1.5 million acres called the “coastal plain” were set aside for future leasing in 1980, drilling would occur on less than 2,000 acres. That’s like a small dot on an 8”x 10” sheet of paper.
“The U.S. Geological Survey estimates this sliver of land contains at least 10.4 billion barrels of recoverable oil and 8.6 trillion of natural gas, and those estimates are probably conservative,” the Wall Street Journal editorialized. By comparison, Alaska’s second-biggest oil field, Kuparuk, holds about 2.5 billion barrels.
Exploration and construction would take place during the winter, over roads built on sheets of ice. When the ice melts in the spring, the roads disappear.
The crude, which is 12,000 feet below ground, would be extracted by a widely-used technique known as horizontal drilling. Production wells would be spaced roughly a dozen feet apart yet would reach out for miles in different directions underground.
Washington’s five refineries provide nearly 4% of our nation’s processing capacity. Those refineries processed nearly 638,000 barrels of crude oil per day resulting in roughly 11 million gallons of gasoline, diesel and jet fuel.
Alaska crude comes to our refineries in double-hulled ocean-going tankers. Tanker crews have extensive safety and response training.
If federal leases in wildlife refuges seem unorthodox, they really are not. The National Audubon Society earned more than $25 million (2001 figure) in royalties by allowing oil and natural gas production in Louisiana’s Rainey Wildlife Refuge and Michigan’s Baker Sanctuary.
In fact, a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service survey commissioned in 2001 reported 77 of 567 wildlife refuges in 22 states had oil and gas activities on their lands.
Tapping into Alaska’s National Petroleum Reserve is a safety net for America.
—Don C. Brunell is a business analyst, writer and columnist. He can be contacted at [email protected].