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ANWR: Dump Lamar's billion-dollar-boondoggle

By Henry Lamb
web posted March 28, 2005

Rage over rising gasoline prices and increased oil imports should be directed at Bill Clinton and Senate Democrats. Had Bill Clinton not vetoed the 1995 budget, oil from the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge would now be providing nearly a million barrels per day to American markets -- about the same amount we are importing from Saudi Arabia.

In every Congress since 1995, Senate Democrats have killed every effort to utilize our own oil reserves. Finally, by the narrowest of votes (51-49), Senate Republicans passed the ANWR resolution which will not be vetoed by President Bush. Still, it will take another decade to get this oil flowing.

Democrats, and a powerful environmental lobby, are committed to stopping ANWR production. Using a litany of lies and disinformation, ANWR opponents are gearing up for an all-out war.

Environmentalists contend that drilling in ANWR will "destroy" the refuge. That's a lie. They said the same thing about drilling in Prudhoe Bay, which was home to about 3,000 caribou before drilling began. Now, after 30 years of drilling, the herd numbers are nearing 36,000.

Environmentalists contend that drilling in ANWR will produce only "a few months" of oil at national consumption rates. That's deliberate disinformation. At one million barrels per day, which is all the additional oil the Alaska pipeline can carry, it would take nearly three years to pump a billion barrels to the lower states. The low end of the estimated reserves is about five billion barrels. That's about 15 years of oil. The mean estimate is about 10 billion barrels, and the field could have as much as 16 billion barrels of oil. That's a far cry from the "few months" supply that opponents continually preach.

The ANWR vote is good news. Democrats and environmentalists who want to reverse the decision are apparently blind to the growing global demand for oil -- or they don't care. To them, it is more important to keep humans off the North Slope than to use our own resources to meet our energy needs.

Not all the ANWR news is good. At the last moment, Tennessee's liberal Republican Senator Lamar Alexander, dredged up a provision from the old failed Conservation and Recovery Act (CARA) and attached a requirement that $350 million of oil revenues be set aside for three years for grants to green organizations and the acquisition of private property.

How dumb is it to designate $350 million per year to the very organizations that have prevented the use of ANWR oil for decades? How dumb is it to designate even more money for the government and green groups to buy up even more of the remaining private property in this country. Governments already own almost 45 per cent of the total land area -- besides the land already acquired by The Nature Conservancy and thousands of other "land trusts?"

Liberal Lamar's billion-dollar-boondoggle can be stripped from the budget bill in conference committee, but this could upset the delicate vote in the Senate, and ANWR oil could be denied for another decade.

Both green and blue Senators should recognize two glaring facts: (1) America needs to develop all of its energy reserves to minimize dependence on foreign sources; and (2) governments and land trusts have already taken too much land out of the private sector, and should begin returning this treasure to private owners.

Energy is the basis for our power and prosperity. Currently, more than half of our energy comes from nations that don't like America. It is profoundly stupid to continue to increase this dependency when we have abundant resources of oil in ANWR, and elsewhere, and an almost endless supply of coal.

Private ownership of land is the foundation of freedom and economic stability. Every acre taken from the private sector to "protect" for future generations, is actually a theft from future generations, that will not be allowed to use it. There is no such thing as "public" land; it is government land, which, in some restricted areas such as parks, may be used by the public, for a fee.

Every time an acre is taken from the private sector, housing costs and property taxes must increase -- as the supply is diminished and the demand continues to increase.

Whether it is called "protecting the environment" or "comprehensive planning," or "preserving open space," or "heritage or historic areas," -- any time an acre of land is removed from the private sector, the power and prosperity of ordinary people decreases, and the power and prosperity of government increases.

We need ANWR's oil, without liberal Lamar's billion-dollar-boondoggle attached.

Henry Lamb is the executive vice president of the Environmental Conservation Organization (ECO), and chairman of Sovereignty International.


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