Posted by: greeningwashington | February 10, 2009

The Energy Independence Myth

Energy Independence is a myth. Well, at least when it comes to the prospect of drilling our way out of dependence on foreign oil. “Drill here, Drill now, Pay less,” the infamous slogan many in the Republican Party have adopted as their mantra is simply misleading. Like many one-liners before it, “Drill here, Drill now” only reinforces the irrationality and disillusion of the Right’s plan. (Please note, I have purposefully left off-shore drilling out of this argument.)

Currently, the United States consumes approximately 20 million barrels of oil per day (bbl/d) according to the Energy Information Administration (EIA) and a variety of other sources.

The EIA also estimates that domestic crude oil production averaged 4.95 million bbl/d, which was down by 110,000 bbl/d from 2007. While this figure is predicted to increase slightly in 2009 to 5.35 million bbl/d, the increase is virtually insignificant in market terms.

Simple Equation: Domestic Production-Consumption = -15.05 million bbl/d.

This difference is substantial; however, opening up the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR) for drilling will not put a significant dent in this number.

The specific area in contention is the ANWR Coastal Plain Area, which is labeled Area 1002, and which is expected to have the most potential for oil production. According to a 2008 report by the EIA and the Department of Energy, the opening of ANWR will result in approximately 780,000 bbl/d. Mind you, this is after energy companies obtain a lease, set-up their equipment for drilling, and find the crude oil.

Therefore, if we factor in the crude oil contribution from ANWR to our previous equation we get a deficit of 14.27 bbl/d. Insignificant to say the least.

Notable summary excerpts from the Analysis of Crude Oil Production in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge report continue as follows:

The opening of the ANWR 1002 Area to oil and natural gas development is projected to increase domestic crude oil production starting in 2018. In the mean ANWR oil resource case, additional oil production resulting from the opening of ANWR reaches 780,000 barrels per day in 2027 and then declines to 710,000 barrels per day in 2030. In the low and high ANWR oil resource cases, additional oil production resulting from the opening of ANWR peaks in 2028 at 510,000 and 1.45 million barrels per day, respectively. Between 2018 and 2030, cumulative additional oil production is 2.6 billion barrels for the mean oil resource case, while the low and high resource cases project a cumulative additional oil production of 1.9 and 4.3 billion barrels, respectively.

Additional oil production resulting from the opening of ANWR would be only a small portion of total world oil production, and would likely be offset in part by somewhat lower production outside the United States. The opening of ANWR is projected to have its largest oil price reduction impacts as follows: a reduction in low-sulfur, light crude oil prices of $0.41 per barrel (2006 dollars) in 2026 for the low oil resource case, $0.75 per barrel in 2025 for the mean oil resource case, and $1.44 per barrel in 2027 for the high oil resource case, relative to the reference case.

For me, opening ANWR is a moral issue. Promising to protect invaluable wildlife and ecosystems over short-term profits for large energy companies is not a difficult choice in my mind. However, I understand there are several factors that come into play concerning energy prices such as, how high oil prices disproportionately affect the poor. I hope that one day we will learn to treat oil as the precious resource it is. However, as witnessed during the summer of 2008, it is already becoming a luxury item for some.

For Republicans, and the champion of “Drill here, Drill now”, former House Speaker, Newt Gingrich, the decision to open ANWR has more to do with America’s “dirty” ties with foreign nations and our freedom to plunder our land into destitution. Will we not be forced to turn to foreigners anyway once our domestic oil supply runs out due to a lack of conservation? And, by the way, who cares about polar bears? (more on polar bear to come)

Either way, the wrong solution is feeding the oil addiction — whether the oil comes from our own backyard or from abroad. If we want to reduce the strains of this cycle, we must advocate real solutions such as energy efficiency much like what President Obama proposes in his energy plan. We must learn to use public transportation where it is available and where it is not we should advocate expansion. No plan is perfect, some are just better than others.

John Muir must be rolling over in his grave at the thought of opening ANWR for drilling.

Until next time.







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