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Rep. Bartlett, in reversal, backs drilling in Arctic refuge

Associated Press via SF Examiner
Rep. Roscoe Bartlett, a conservative Republican with an unusually green reputation, said Thursday he will co-sponsor a bill to allow oil and natural gas drilling in part of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge after years of opposition.

Bartlett, R-Md., cited skyrocketing crude oil prices in announcing his support for the American Energy Independence and Price Reduction Act, which would send all the revenue from drilling leases in the refuge’s coastal strip to alternative and renewable energy programs.

“I have resisted drilling in ANWR because I believe that these oil reserves are like money in the bank that is yielding huge interest rates,” Bartlett said in a news release. “Today, with oil at $134 per barrel, there is obviously no surplus energy or capital to invest in alternatives.”

Bartlett acknowledged that drilling would do some environmental harm in the coastal strip, where polar bears, musk oxen and caribou abound. But he said, “I am convinced that the environmental impact will be minimal.”

… Bartlett said in a telephone interview that he had not changed his position.

“I said I would not support it unless they were going to use the money from drilling in ANWR to invest in alternatives,” the Republican congressman said.
(22 May 2008)

Fuel crisis makes drilling top priority for America

Robert Samuelson, News-Press (Florida)
What to do about oil? First it went from $60 to $80 a barrel, then from $80 to $100 and now to $120. Perhaps we can persuade OPEC to raise production, as some senators suggest; but this seems unlikely.

The truth is that we’re almost powerless to influence today’s prices. We are because we didn’t take sensible actions 10 or 20 years ago. If we persist, we will be even worse off in a decade or two. The first thing to do: Start drilling.

It may surprise Americans to discover that the United States is the third-largest oil producer, behind Saudi Arabia and Russia. We could be producing more, but Congress has put large areas of potential supply off-limits.

… On environmental grounds, the alternatives to more drilling are usually worse. Subsidies for ethanol made from corn have increased food prices and used scarce water, with few benefits. If oil is imported, it’s vulnerable to tanker spills. By contrast, local production is probably safer. There were 4,000 platforms operating in the Gulf of Mexico when hurricanes Katrina and Rita hit. Despite extensive damage, there were no major spills, says Robbie Diamond of Securing America’s Future Energy, an advocacy group.

Perhaps oil prices will drop when some long-delayed projects begin production or if demand slackens. But the basic problem will remain. Though dependent on foreign oil, we might conceivably curb the power of foreign producers. But this is not a task of a month or a year. It is a task of decades; new production projects take that long. If we don’t start now, our future dependence and its dangers will grow. Count on it.
Robert J. Samuelson is a columnist for Newsweek and the Washington Post.
(22 May 2008)

It’s a delusion to think drilling will help ease current oil crisis

Sen. Bill Nelson, News-Press (Florida)
“Start drilling.” Put those oil rigs off the protected beaches of Florida and in the preserved wilds of Alaska.

In essence, that is what Washington Post writer Robert J. Samuelson urged in his column published in the Post recently.

Drilling, right away, in environmentally protected areas was a centerpiece of Samuelson’s solution to rising gasoline prices. To oppose drilling in protected areas, he said, is “sheer stupidity” and “prejudice against oil companies.”

That’s the same thing the oil companies say every time there is a spike in gas prices. They cling to their own long-term remedy that would expose Florida’s entirely beach-and-tourism-driven economy to ruination.

… Against this backdrop I want to make clear that any oil still deep in the ground has no direct link – none – to today’s pump prices. Any oil in the ground won’t be in the marketplace for some ten years. Further, the oil companies that want to drill much closer to our shores already have leases on 33 million other acres where they haven’t even started drilling yet.

More importantly – no matter what anybody says or writes – the U.S. has only 3 percent of the world’s oil reserves while it uses 25 percent of the global supply.

In other words – and I’m using Samuelson’s terminology here – it’s “sheer stupidity” to think the U.S. can drill its way out of an energy crisis.

… So, again, what to do?

Fifty percent of the oil we use goes into our transportation. It shouldn’t take a rocket scientist to realize this is where we must focus.

First, we must enact serious conservation measures, like, 40 miles per gallon for our vehicles; and, provide bigger tax breaks for hybrid cars.

Second, the government – led by the next president – must enact a national energy program to transition us from gasoline to alternative and synthetic fuels to power much of our transportation. President Kennedy led us to conquer the bounds of Earth within a decade.

We must act with the same urgency. And, while we are at it, we are going to have to make ethanol from things we don’t eat.

And while we are at that, we are going to have to pay attention to how we power not just our cars and trucks, but our homes and industry. We are going to need to develop solar, wind and thermal energy, and safer nuclear power.

This is what our presidential candidates must pledge in place of drilling in protected areas.

Start drilling? Sheer stupidity.

Bill Nelson is Florida’s senior U.S. senator.
(22 May 2008)

Feds: Much of oil, gas under lands off limits

Matthew Brown, Associated Press via Business Week
A new report from the Bush administration says most of the oil and more than 40 percent of the natural gas beneath public lands in the United States are off limits to drilling.

Opening those reserves would give energy companies access to an estimated 19 billion barrels of oil and 95 trillion cubic feet of natural gas, administration officials said Wednesday. That would require Congress to roll back environmental safeguards and lift drilling prohibitions on vast areas — from Florida to Alaska and across the Rocky Mountain West.

The report, from the Bureau of Land Management, is likely to add to growing political pressure to curb fuel imports and dampen prices by ramping up domestic energy production. But it comes amid a development backlash in some parts of the country, where drilling rigs are blamed for interrupting wildlife migrations, fouling water supplies and marring natural vistas.
(21 May 2008)