As we are all painfully aware, America is in an energy crisis. Oil prices are at a record high and the economy is suffering from the increased costs of transportation and shipping. As this energy crisis worsens, it presents our nation with the opportunity to harness America’s ingenuity and develop cheaper and more sustainable sources of energy to power the United States for the rest of the twenty-first century.
Some, however, do not wish to seize this opportunity. They believe that, instead of developing cheaper and better alternatives to power our economy, we should extract the relatively small amount of oil (only enough to reduce the percentage of our oil imported from abroad by four percent, according to estimates from the Energy Information Administration) from the Artic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR). ANWR is a remote region in northern Alaska which has been set aside by the federal government due to its importance to the Alaskan ecosystem. Opening ANWR to oil production would be devastating to the region’s wildlife, including its population of endangered polar bears.
Not only would oil production be extremely harmful to the wildlife in ANWR, but the oil supplied would be minimal and would take years to begin reaching the market. The Energy Information Administration of the U.S. Energy Department estimates that it would take nine years for oil from ANWR to begin entering the market and a total of twenty years for it to reach peak production. Even at peak production, however, oil supplied from ANWR would only decrease the price of oil by fifty cents per barrel. That means that if oil production in ANWR were approved today, we would have to wait twenty years before we even experience a marginal decrease in the price of gasoline.
Because of the high ecological cost of extracting ANWR’s oil, level heads have prevailed in Congress as moderate Republicans have joined with Democrats in preventing one of our nation’s great treasures from disappearing forever. As the energy crisis persists, however, the temptation will grow to destroy ANWR and other national treasures to get at the small dregs of oil beneath them. This is why we, the University of Utah College Democrats, urge our leaders to invest in the development of alternative fuels such as solar and wind power so we can avoid the desperation that might lead to the loss of ANWR.Oakley is the President of the University of Utah College Democrats and is currently serving as an intern for the Jean Welch Hill for Attorney General Campaign. He previously worked as an intern for the Ralph Becker for Mayors race and volunteered on the Jani Iwamoto before joining Jean.