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Monday, November 07, 2005 

Greed: ANWR

Last week the Senate voted to open the Alaskan National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR) to oil drilling. This is the result of many years of fighting with environmentalists. I am currently opposed to this move, but not for environmental reasons. In fact, the area that is right for oil drilling is some of the most God-forsaken, nasty and useless pieces of dirt on the planet. It is the only place on the planet that is both a wetland AND a desert.

From Jonah Goldberg’s 2001 piece

Indeed, they would probably agree that if America had to be struck by an asteroid, this would be the ideal impact point. Of course, I am not talking about ANWR's beautiful mountain vistas, the ones cooed over by cable-news hostesses. Not only is that stuff legally protected from oil exploration, it is far, far away from anywhere the oil companies want to drill
If 0.0000001 percent of the Americans who fervently oppose exploration in ANWR ever actually visited this remote corner of the world over the course of a decade, it would constitute a tourism stampede.
So, if I am not with the environmentalists, why do I oppose opening up ANWR for drilling? Because this oil should be thought of as a strategic asset, not as a way to reduce gas prices; it should only be used as a hedge against the inevitable stoppage of the flow of oil from the Middle East.

So, here is how I think we should be doing in ANWR right now.

ANWR should be open to exploration only with some very strong restrictions. The Senate covered one of these restrictions by immediately passing a resolution to barring any oil recovered from ANWR from being exported. The other restriction that I think should exist is that no oil will be removed from the ground until a national emergency requires it. The exploration and development should be done right now so that we can get access to the oil in short order, but the pumps should be idle until the oil is needed. The price of gas is no justification for opening the spigots. Of course this means that a great deal of expensive development has to be in place and not producing revenue. I think that developing this strategic asset is a major National Security interest, which the Government must fund and control. We should also stop using the Strategic Petroleum Reserves for short-term political gain, but that is another argument.

We must also start and fund as a National Priority, a push to develop alternate energy technology. We must free our economy and security from any control of foreign powers. We have for too long been funding our sworn enemies with oil profits. Oil Shale development? You bet! Hydrogen? Bring it on! Synthoil from coal? Sure. Ethanol and Biodiesel? Without a doubt!
Oil Shale and Synthoil are attractive in the near-term because no dramatic changes need happen to get these sources online. Synthoil is a very old (Nazis!) technology and there have been recent advances in recovering crude from Oil Shale/sands. While not economically profitable right now, the technology should be aggressively advanced so it is ready when we need it. The trouble is that we would be trading one non-renewable resource for another.

Ethanol may be the way, but it is not the only way. Developing better ethanol technology and delivery systems is a good near-term plan. Getting more flex-fuel vehicles on the road should be a priority as is increasing ethanol availability nationwide.

Biodiesel is my favorite obsession right now. this machine (PDF) makes it from trash, lots of people are making it from waste vegetable oil. People are making it in their backyards, this is really cool!

Hydrogen is interesting, but is a long way away.

In short, we should be thinking about a world where the Middle East is no longer a source for oil. We need to plan for this crisis and be ready for it when (not if) it happens.

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