Arctic oil isn't worth the cost
How much would you like
to save on a gallon of gas? A penny?
To save that penny per
gallon, would you be willing to compromise your hunting
and wildlife watching opportunities? To save a cent a
gallon -- not now, but by 2025 -- would you be willing to
compromise one of the last truly wild places on Earth, a
web of life that includes free-ranging caribou, denning
polar bears and the nesting grounds of waterfowl and other
That's what is at stake
as Congress prepares to consider the federal budget bill,
which is expected to include provisions for drilling oil
in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR).
Several hunting, angling
and conservation leaders from Minnesota don't think
drilling in the refuge makes sense. A coalition of those
leaders wrote this past week to U.S. Rep. Mark Kennedy, R-Minn.,
applauding his opposition to oil drilling in ANWR.
thousands of waterfowl and migratory birds enjoyed by
Minnesotans in the spring and fall, including geese,
ducks, swans, cranes and loons, require the critical
nesting habitat of the Arctic Refuge in order to
successfully complete their life cycle," the letter
stated. "This habitat is too important to waste and
will not do anything to reduce our dependency on foreign
sources of oil."
The letter was signed by
state leaders of the Izaak Walton League, Minnesota
Conservation Federation, Minnesota Waterfowl Association,
Trout Unlimited and other individual conservation leaders
including Dave Zentner of Duluth.
In late September, former
Gov. Arne Carlson and former U.S. Sen. David Durenburger
wrote to Sen. Norm Coleman, R-Minn., urging him to keep
his 2002 campaign promise to protect ANWR from drilling.
According to the
Department of Energy's own estimates in a July report,
tapping oil reserves in ANWR would reduce our dependence
on foreign oil from 68 percent to 64 percent, and not
until 2025. Opening ANWR to drilling would reduce world
oil prices by 57 cents a barrel at the peak of production
in 2025, according to the report. The report also
indicated the price of gasoline would drop by less than 1
cent per gallon.
For that, are we willing
to compromise a wilderness that supports the greatest
variety of plant and animal life of any park or refuge in
the Arctic worldwide?
There's another reason
not to open ANWR to drilling, according to the
conservation leaders who wrote Rep. Kennedy this past
week. They are concerned that drilling in ANWR would set a
precedent that could allow oil development in the Upper
Mississippi River Fish and Wildlife Refuge and the
Minnesota Valley National Wildlife Refuge in Minnesota.
Clearly, these are
difficult times in a nation that relies heavily on oil and
gas. All of us are concerned about how gas prices will
affect our own finances as well as our national economy.
To President Bush's
credit, he has begun to urge the nation to conserve oil
resources. But his administration also is pushing for oil
exploration in ANWR, touting the need to have America
produce more of its own petroleum. What proponents fail to
mention is how little that production would affect the
price of gasoline and our dependence on foreign oil.
Conservation of our
resources and development of alternative energy sources is
the answer to reducing our dependence on foreign oil.
ANWR is not the answer.
SAM COOK is the News
Tribune's outdoors writer.