Not ‘drilling’ is costly

One million barrels is what might today be flowing from ANWR if in 1995 President Clinton had not vetoed legislation to permit drilling there. One million barrels produce 27 million gallons of gasoline and diesel fuel. Seventy-two of today’s senators – including Schumer, of course, and 38 other Democrats, including Barack Obama, and 33 Republicans, including John McCain – have voted to keep ANWR’s estimated 10.4 billion barrels of oil off the market.

So Schumer, according to Schumer, is complicit in taking $10 away from every American who buys 20 gallons of gasoline. “Democracy,” said H.L. Mencken, “is the theory that the common people know what they want and deserve to get it good and hard.” The common people of New York want Schumer to be their senator, so they should pipe down about gasoline prices, which are a predictable consequence of their political choice.

Also disqualified from complaining are all voters who sent to Washington senators and representatives who have voted to keep ANWR’s oil in the ground, and who voted to put 85 percent of America’s offshore territory off-limits to drilling. The U.S. Minerals Management Service says that restricted area contains perhaps 86 billion barrels of oil and 420 trillion cubic feet of natural gas – 10 times the oil and 20 times the natural gas Americans use in a year.

Drilling is under way 60 miles off Florida. The drilling is being done by China, in cooperation with Cuba, which is drilling closer to South Florida than U.S. companies are.

ANWR is larger than the combined areas of five states (Massachusetts, Connecticut, Rhode Island, New Jersey, Delaware) and drilling along its coastal plain would be confined to a space one-sixth the size of Washington’s Dulles Airport. Offshore? Hurricanes Katrina and Rita destroyed or damaged hundreds of drilling rigs without causing a large spill. There has not been a significant spill from an offshore U.S. well since 1969. Of the more than 7 billion barrels of oil pumped offshore in the past 25 years, 0.001 percent – that is one-thousandth of 1 percent – has been spilled. Louisiana has more than 3,200 rigs offshore – and a thriving commercial fishing industry.

George F. Will
6/9/8