Alaskan Oil: It’s time

Sep 112005
Authors: Jake Blumberg

It is the end of summer, and we are in crisis. Beyond the Gulf Coast and Katrina – a tragedy that cannot be underscored – there is another crisis taking place. The rest of our nation is also in trouble, with an energy crisis that must be addressed.

How can it be solved? It is a question many are asking, from advisers at the highest levels of our government, to traders on Wall Street, along with the neighborhood pizza delivery person. Prices of gasoline are rising as fast as OPEC tycoons can count their money, while you and I suffer from the price hikes.

The higher prices are currently affecting us at the pump, but soon we will be able to feel the effects in grocery stores, and on our pizza delivery bill. If prices stay where they are, the planes and 18-wheelers that transport our food and commercial goods will cost more to operate, leaving us with higher prices to cover individually; delivery charges will also rise and suddenly, a medium pizza won't have such a medium price. It is an economic fact that the consumer will ultimately pay the price when commodities like gasoline rise in price. Wal Mart and Dominoes will simply not cover the bill, no matter how friendly their logos and slogans are.

That is our problem, and the solution to that problem lies to our north, in Alaska. I spent three weeks in Alaska last summer, and it was one of the most gorgeous places I have ever seen. Alaska is a place of pristine beauty that epitomizes the idea of the Wild West Frontier. Yet, there was something I couldn't see on my trip that could be the answer to some of our problems: the untapped oil fields in Northern Alaska, located in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR).

President Bush has been pressing Congress to pass a bill into law that would allow for drilling in this area, a bill that has drawn a fair amount of criticism from Democrats and environmentalists alike. The opposition contends that drilling in the ANWR would destroy the beauty of the area and harm the wildlife that calls the region home.

According to the ANWR Web site,, the proposed area to be explored in the ANWR represents only 8 percent of the total reserve, or 1.5 million of the 19 million acres in the ANWR, a small fraction of land that could represent a huge economic gain for the United States. This land, located close to the existing infrastructure used for drilling oil in Prude Bay, is not made up of mountains and trickling streams; it is tundra, which resembles I-25 north of Fort Collins after a blizzard, an area of land that is not picturesque enough to grace any post card. Certainly, the animals that live in the ANWR will be affected by exploration, but proponents of the bill reference the wildlife that currently lives in Prude Bay – Alaska's oil capital – where a resident herd of caribou has flourished, growing to nearly 32,000 in number since the drilling began, the ANWR wrote on their Web site.

I will not proclaim that everything from the oil drilling exploration will be positive – because it will not – but the positive outcomes that will accompany it far outweigh the negatives. I love animals, but owls and caribou don't help me when I am at the pump, filling my tank with what resembles liquid gold at today's prices; the only thing that will help is lower gas prices.

Based on numbers from the United States Geological Survey (USGS) of the ANWR, there is enough oil in the 1.5 million acres to provide our nation with years of independence from imported oil, solely using its resources. At a projected price of around $30 a barrel – compared to current oil prices of $70 a barrel – Alaska's oil would force prices to drop. Adding the oil to our supply lines would also provide the United States with a certain level of independence from OPEC, a coalition that certainly does not have US consumer's interests at heart.

Sooner or later, we will be forced to drill in Alaska. The only question is what method will be used when that time comes. If we start the process now – when the problem is only beginning to be critical – we can take the necessary steps to insure the least amount of damage will be done to the wildlife and land. I hope we can find a way to cater to both sides of the issue, because I love both Alaska's beauty, and having enough cash in my wallet to fill up my car and buy groceries; a luxury I may not have for long unless our energy crisis is solved.

Jake Blumberg is a sophomore technical journalism and political science double major. His column runs every Monday.

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