Wednesday, April 19, 2006

On ANWR and Energy

I suggest that Congress immediately authorize exploratory drilling to determine the real quantity of oil and natural gas reserves exist in the Coastal Plain. Most geologists agree that the potential may rival or exceed the initial reserves at Prudhoe Bay, but we will not know until beneath the surface exploration is accomplished. At the same time, plans should be developed and initiated to build the base field and connect to the trans-Alaskan pipeline 50 miles to the west.

If the sub-surface exploration indicates the reserves are far greater than anticipated and a significant impact can be made on the amount of imported oil, then drilling should begin immediately. On the other hand if the exploration supports the current predictions or less, then the drilling operation should be built and the equipment maintained while the Coastal Plain reserves are capped and held as part of our nation’s Strategic Petroleum Reserves (SPR).

The SPR was created by 1975 Energy Policy and Conservation Act (EPCA), primarily to counter a severe supply interruption. The goal was to establish a billion barrel reserve with the authorization to permit a removal rate (physical restraints) of 4.4 million barrels a day. While the daily consumption of oil has grown more than 50% in the last thirty years, the capacity of the SPR has not changed at all.

Senator Mike DeWine has voted against drilling in ANWR four times and has failed to offer any alternatives. Had he been our Senator in the mid-1970’s when the same debate was being waged, while using the same arguments, over Prudhoe Bay and the trans-Alaskan pipeline would never have been built. The result? A 20% loss in today’s domestic oil production, and the Caribou heard would be smaller because they have actually flourished due to the food supplies which grow under the pipeline.

The Administration, in collaboration with Congress, must develop a truly viable and meaningful energy policy. One that is driven towards a reduction in oil imports and ultimately to energy independence. Special interests groups, their agendas, and their influence peddling must be set aside so America can re-shape its energy requirements and fight for “independence” once again – this battle is no less important than the one waged for independence two hundred and thirty years ago.

We need to establish a national goal of energy conservation and the development of new, efficient, and clean forms of energy. As President Kennedy inspired the nation in 1962 to land a man on the moon and return him home safely by the end of the decade, we must do the same today with regard to energy. Modern computers, rocket engines with the required thrust capabilities, and the other technology required to reach the dream in 1969 were not yet conceived when JFK rallied Americans around something which seemed impossible.

Our President and Congress must inspire the genius of “free enterprise” and mix in a good dose of government support and incentives to create a long term solution to an immediate and long term need while creating a national goal of energy independence within the next ten years. We will not be required to start with a blank slate as we did in 1962. A number of passive systems (solar and wind) exist, which will become more economically feasible as the competition for a barrel of oil heats up and prices increase. The technology to increase battery life and reduce physical size has made great strides, which will allow coal burning and nuclear power plants to replace oil. Automobiles designed to operate on biofuels, some on a blend of 85% ethanol and 15% gasoline, are scheduled to come online in 2006. Fusion technology is in its infancy, but so were computers in 1962.

Let us stop the bickering over drilling for oil in ANWR, establish specific goals, and then permit the potential oil and gas reserves in the Coastal Plains to support America’s drive to prosperity, security, and energy independence. Future generations will thank us and we likely will leave the world a better place in which to live.

There is simply no option – lets get it done AND soon!

William G. Pierce, P.E.

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