ANWR False Panacea

A brief discussion of oil exploration prospects in the Alaska National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR) is warranted at this point. Despite the ongoing political debate between the Republicans and Democrats over possible oil exploration in ANWR, this area is of little importance with regard to US energy needs. In fact, it is not helpful to frame this debate as oil/energy lobbyists versus environmentalists, which is based on the false panacea attributed to this issue.

It is perhaps more useful to analyze other Alaskan oil fields to place the ANWR debate into the proper context. The Badami oil field between Prudhoe Bay and ANWR is about to be shut down according to British Petroleum (BP).29 The cumulative production results of this field was 4 million barrels, but at the time of development it was reported to have 120 million barrels. (Actual production was only 1/30 of the original projections.) Likewise, it was forecasted that its peak production would reach 35,000 b/d. However, the actual peak oil production was only a fraction of the original projections, reaching only 3200 b/d.30

The USGS (Open file 98-34) estimated in 1999 that technically recoverable oil for ANWR would range from 5.7 to 16 billion barrels, with a mean of 10.3 billion barrels. The US Department of Energy (SR/O1G/2000-02) forecasted that ANWR would achieve peak output between 1.0 and 1.3 mb/d 20 years from start.31 Notably, current US oil consumption is approximately 20 million barrels per day, thus illustrating that an additional 1 mb/d 20 years from now will provide less than 1/25 ofdaily projected demand (projected US demand in 2020 is 26mb/d). In other words, from an objective perspective ANWR's production would be far too little and too late, or as oil geologist Jean Laherrere stated, "a very quick and negligible blip in the production curve."32

In conclusion, if oil exploration and drilling were to take place in ANWR

— even under a "best case" production scenario — Americans must be realistic that it will not provide a panacea for US oil consumption. The political rhetoric surrounding ANWR is inappropriate considering that its potential contribution to projected US energy demand and national security is quite negligible

— unless of course certain politicians are attempting to gain millions in campaign cash from petroleum companies seeking favorable oil leases in ANWR.

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