As prices at the gas pump continue to rise, public frustration is predictably rising with it. Gas prices in Mississippi averaged $2.88 one year ago. Today, that price has climbed to nearly $3.90. Even more alarming, the national average has already passed the $4.00 per gallon mark. With these high prices causing disruption across our country, immediate action needs to be taken to address this urgent problem.

Our country needs to increase production of American energy sources. We have enormous amounts of oil and gas reserves that should be utilized, none that has drawn more attention than the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR) in Alaska.

IMPACT OF ANWR

Located in northeast Alaska, the region known as ANWR is covered with snow and ice nine months out of the year, with three of those months passing in total darkness because the sun never rises. In its entirety, ANWR is nearly the size of South Carolina, though the portion of the region where oil exploration is proposed is much smaller. In fact, using today’s improved technology, only 2,000 acres would be affected by production, leaving more than 99 percent of the ANWR region untouched.

The U.S. Geological Survey estimates there are 10.4 billion barrels of oil in ANWR. At peak production, America could be accessing one million barrels of oil from ANWR every day – the same amount of oil we import from Saudi Arabia on a daily basis. ANWR’s oil reserves are sufficient enough to deliver our country one million barrels a day for 28 years.

PHILOSOPHICAL DIFFERENCE

In 1995, President Clinton vetoed legislation that would have authorized oil exploration in ANWR. At the time, environmentalists and Congressional opponents of ANWR exploration said tapping into these oil reserves was too risky and not worth it. Thirteen years later, many of those ANWR opponents remain in Congress and, unfortunately, they remain opposed to developing this domestic energy source even as gasoline prices reach highs our country has never seen.

Speaking recently on the Senate floor, a vocal critic of ANWR production predicted the price of gas would drop by 50 cents if countries in the Middle East would increase their oil production by 800,000 barrels a day. This claim reflects the philosophical differences between those who support increasing American-made energy and those who don’t. Both sides apparently agree that an increased supply of oil would lower gas prices. We differ, however, on where that oil should come from. To help lower gas prices, I believe we should utilize our oil here at home – located in ANWR and other areas currently off limits to exploration – instead of relying on imports from the Middle East that only increase our dangerous dependence on foreign oil.

COMMON SENSE SOLUTION

Our country is transitioning to an economy that is less reliant on fossil fuels, but this won’t happen overnight. This transition will take decades, and in order to keep our economy competitive and reduce energy costs for consumers in the meantime, we must move now to increase domestic energy production. The oil reserves in ANWR represent a prime opportunity to do so, and with gas prices over $4.00 per gallon, we can’t afford not to act.

Senator Roger Wicker Press Release
6/13/8