Kudos to Sen. Richard Durbin of Illinois for changing his stance and supporting offshore drilling. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is also due an expression of gratitude for asking the Bush administration to help lower gas prices immediately by taking from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve. Although these are small steps, they are steps nonetheless on the road to lower energy costs and lower gas prices.
Unfortunately, true relief won’t be felt at the pump until the United States establishes a comprehensive energy plan that includes, among nuclear and coal technologies, the oil and natural gas reserves located in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR) as well as the oil deposits in the Gulf of Mexico off the coast of Florida. ANWR, which sits on Alaska’s frozen tundra, is comprised of more than 19 million acres of protected wildlife areas and is believed to be the nation’s largest oil reserve. According to the U.S. Geological Survey, ANWR could contain up to 17 billion barrels of oil and 34 trillion cubic feet of natural gas. Canada, from which the U.S. imports most of its oil, already drills for oil on a site not 700 miles away.
Offshore drilling is another means by which the U.S. can help lower fuel prices. Ever since Sen. John McCain urged an end to the ban on offshore drilling, politicians have been joining the “drill team,” knowing the momentum is right for this sort of endeavor. According to Cornell geology professor Lawrence M. Cathles, there are potentially tens of billions of barrels of oil in the Gulf of Mexico.
Several countries, including China and Cuba, are already beating us to the punch with respect to drilling in the Gulf. And why not–the oil rigs in the Gulf have an excellent safety record. Even with catastrophic storms such as Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, the rigs in the Gulf fared extremely well. What’s more, they are very close to the mainland, cutting down on the transportation costs of the oil as well as the amount of oil needed to transport it.
It is essential for the United States to strive to find new sources of energy. Drilling for oil in ANWR and in the Gulf are just two of the many options that will help lower energy costs and, in turn, provide a much-needed boost to the U.S. economy by lowering energy prices. And since the oil will be closer to home, less oil will be expended in its transportation, helping preserve our natural resources.
Zonia M. Pino ([email protected]) is a legislative specialist for The Heartland Institute.