Profit at any cost
March 15, 2005 10:21 AM   Subscribe

  • The Arctic National Wildlife Refuge's 19 million acres comprise one of the last places on earth where an intact expanse of arctic and sub arctic lands remains protected.
  • Drilling in the Arctic Refuge can't make even a small dent in meeting America's energy needs. U.S. Geological Survey scientists estimate that there is very likely only enough oil to supply America's needs for six months. And oil companies admit that, even that, won't be available for at least 10 years.
  • An irreplaceable natural treasure, the Arctic Refuge is home to caribou, polar bears, grizzly bears, wolves, golden eagles, snow geese and more. Millions of other birds use the Arctic Refuge to nest and as a critical staging area on their migratory journeys.
  • The Arctic Refuge supports more than wildlife. For a thousand generations, the Gwich'in people of Northeast Alaska and Northwest Canada have depended on it and lived in harmony with it. To them, the Arctic Coastal Plain is sacred ground.

  • Yet where God sees life, Republicans see black profit by adding Alaskan drilling to upcoming legislation.
    posted by Mean Mr. Bucket (91 comments total)
     
    If only MeFi could render powerpoint presentations, life would be good.
    posted by signal at 10:29 AM on March 15, 2005


    Enviromentalists say: protect metafilter from Arctic drilling!
    posted by alms at 10:31 AM on March 15, 2005


    thedevildancedlightly, feel free to actually address the post. I know it's very easy to hide behind partisian snark but that gig's pretty old.

    I had no idea just how little oil is in ANWR. It seems like ANWR has now become more a symbolic gesture than an actual attempt to address the country's oil needs.
    posted by nixerman at 10:32 AM on March 15, 2005


    Yes, yes, you're all very clever.
    posted by sonofsamiam at 10:32 AM on March 15, 2005


    Yeah, how dare anybody express an opinion in a post.
    posted by substrate at 10:33 AM on March 15, 2005


    Now that we got the whole 'rip the post' conversation out of the way, we can discuss the topic.

    This legislation is as good as passed. I think the best the democrats can do is try and put in some provisions about increasing CAFE standards or earmarking money for renewable resources. Perhaps, if they can add these in, then have most everyone vote for the legislation, and it can be considered a bipartisan victory, one that the administration hasn't really been able to trumpet since No Child Left Behind.
    posted by Arch Stanton at 10:33 AM on March 15, 2005


    Wait a second. I thought we were all going to have hydrogen cars in ten years!

    Meanwhile, the fans of Frank Herbert's prophesy continue to hope for the coming of Muad’Dib.
    posted by billysumday at 10:37 AM on March 15, 2005


    The way I look at it is over the next 4 years we're going to see exactly how much damage a republican pro-biz president and a republican congress with little ethics can do to the country. Bush Co. said right up front they were going to drill ANWR. They also said they were going to gut Social Security. The good god-fearing folks of America voted with that knowledge. I now say let them reap what they have sowed.
    posted by photoslob at 10:40 AM on March 15, 2005


    One thing that really disturbs me about tapping ANWR oil reserves -- and this is an opinion completely un-influenced by my anti-oil-guzzing, pinko-lefty, pro-environmental-stewardship views -- is that they are reserves. It seems to me that they should remain untapped until we are truly in dire straits with a strangulated oil supply -- for instance, a WWII-like situation where reserve oil could make a difference in our level of production. We should not be delving into such a resource because we are feeling that gas prices are a squidge too high.

    Rising gas prices do act regressively on society -- penalizing lower-income workers at a far higher rate than wealthier people -- but that may be the only real negative side effect. Higher gas prices, coupled with a PR campaign aimed at keeping more vehicles off roads like I-95, encouraging less use of cars in daily life, consolidation of errands, carpooling, etc., will improve air quality, water quality, road conditions, neighborhood economies, and quality of life overall. You could achieve all these outcomes while protecting the poor by using gas rationing. Yes! I said it! I told you I was a pinko.
    posted by Miko at 10:42 AM on March 15, 2005


    I agree with photoslob.
    If the masses would rather believe the pretty stories from the Shrub Admin, let 'em sleep in the beds they made.
    Too bad the rest of us have to pay, too. But since expressing common sense earns a public flogging these days, I'm not sure how to fix it.
    posted by cows of industry at 10:47 AM on March 15, 2005


    I now say let them reap what they have sowed.

    Unfortunately, a lot of people did not sow these seeds.

    "A long-cherished Republican goal to open an Alaskan wildlife refuge to oil drilling advanced in a Senate committee on Thursday..."

    What a noble goal. No sense having an energy policy that doesn't completely hinge on minimal oil reserves under a pristine environment.
    posted by Armen Tanzarian at 10:50 AM on March 15, 2005


    What a bad post. The links don't point to what they say they point to, and there is no substantive information about the impact drilling would have. Drilling there is a tradeoff between environmental damage and getting oil that we need. All this talk of majestic caribou and golden eagles is pretty hyperbolic. Do you oppose drilling in Saudi Arabia because it harms the native Beoduin and disrupts vital scorpion breeding grounds? Basically the place is a frozen wasteland which hardly anyone will ever visit. "Only" six months of the entire oil demand for the U.S.? That sounds like a lot of oil to me. If it can be done with minimal damage to the environment, which it sounds to me like it can, why would you not want to drill up there?
    posted by cameldrv at 10:50 AM on March 15, 2005


    Because it is reserved.
    posted by sonofsamiam at 10:51 AM on March 15, 2005


    Coincidently, I just got an email from "Friends of John Kerry" on this. The talking points mentioned are (apologies in advance for small tag):

    The Arctic National Wildlife Refuge's 19 million acres comprise one of the last places on earth where an intact expanse of arctic and sub arctic lands remains protected.

    Drilling in the Arctic Refuge can't make even a small dent in meeting America's energy needs. U.S. Geological Survey scientists estimate that there is very likely only enough oil to supply America's needs for six months. And oil companies admit that, even that, won't be available for at least 10 years.

    An irreplaceable natural treasure, the Arctic Refuge is home to caribou, polar bears, grizzly bears, wolves, golden eagles, snow geese and more. Millions of other birds use the Arctic Refuge to nest and as a critical staging area on their migratory journeys.

    Of course, the Arctic Refuge supports more than wildlife. For a thousand generations, the Gwich'in people of Northeast Alaska and Northwest Canada have depended on it and lived in harmony with it. To them, the Arctic Coastal Plain is sacred ground.


    How much of this is fact and/or fiction, I don't know. Just grist for the mill.
    posted by KevinSkomsvold at 10:51 AM on March 15, 2005


    I was with you until "God sees life."
    posted by damnthesehumanhands at 10:57 AM on March 15, 2005


    I wanted to post about this a few days ago, but I'm too new to MeFi apparently...

    I thought we invaded Iraq for oil dammit...Alaska is too pretty and there are no dictatorships to "freedomize"

    I think GW is losing focus...
    \sarcasm
    posted by schyler523 at 10:57 AM on March 15, 2005


    If only there were a way to convert pristine beauty directly into oil, then we wouldn't have to worry about holes, or cariboos.
    posted by BlackLeotardFront at 11:01 AM on March 15, 2005


    Because it is reserved.

    Are you playing a semantics game, here? That's what we call all known, removable, heretofore untapped, underground resource deposits.
    posted by trharlan at 11:11 AM on March 15, 2005


    Arch, the legislation is not "as good as passed." There are a number of procedural hurdles it still has to make it through.

    The situation right now is that Republicans are trying to get it attached to the budget resolution. That way it only needs a simple majority to pass. It can't be fillibustered.

    But it is far from certain that Republicans will be able to get a budget resolution passed at all. They've failed in the last two years, and just today the NYTimes reports, G.O.P. Rebellion Threatens to Derail Efforts to Adopt Budget. I know several people who are working very hard on this issue right now. They have not yet thrown in the towel.
    posted by alms at 11:14 AM on March 15, 2005


    From the last link
    Domenici accused environmentalists of a double standard in trying to protect ANWR while ignoring the widespread drilling in Texas and in New Mexico, his home state.

    "Fly over it and you'll see. There's a hole in the ground you can see from the air every quarter of a mile -- all over Texas, all over New Mexico," Domenici said.


    Can someone have their Senator attach a rider that bars drilling in Texas and New Mexico to keep him happy?
    posted by mss at 11:16 AM on March 15, 2005


    I've heard the six month figure a number of times before. If there's truly such a limited supply, what's the motivation to drill there? Are there some fringe benefits, like opening the area to logging (assuming there are at least some trees somewhere in this expanse)? Are there government kickbacks for creating new jobs to set up the operation that make the cost worth it?

    Maybe this supply offsets a dependency on some foreign oil, meaning that we'd be able to dump part of our current suppliers while reducing gross consumption before this supply runs out. It's not like you drill for oil and instantly have the entire reservoir to use. In any case, why isn't anyone stating this case in clear terms, instead of making vague comparisons to existing oil drilling? Why don't the opponents of this drilling explain why the real motivation is flawed instead of waving the negatives?

    On an related note (though not quite worthy of MeTa), it'd be nice if a FPP wasn't in bullet format, wasn't copied nearly directly from the email KevinSkomsvold mentioned, and not so partisan as to not explain why people want to drill for oil when the benefits seem so low.
    posted by mikeh at 11:18 AM on March 15, 2005


    trharlan: You are right. I'm sorry I was just being flip, particularly after in this very thread I chastised others for it. I bring me shame.
    posted by sonofsamiam at 11:19 AM on March 15, 2005


    If it can be done with minimal damage to the environment, which it sounds to me like it can

    What does minimal mean in this context? I took a shit in your cornflakes but I have made every effort to do so with minimal damage to your breakfast?

    "Only" six months of the entire oil demand for the U.S.? That sounds like a lot of oil to me.

    Well that will play well in 10 years when there's only a hole in the ground, an ecological disaster and a miniscule long forgotten drop in fuel prices.
    posted by biffa at 11:19 AM on March 15, 2005


    cameldrv: "Only" six months of the entire oil demand for the U.S.? That sounds like a lot of oil to me.

    Yeah, but the thing is, it really isn't. It wouldn't put much of a dent in our dependence on foreign oil because it pales in comparison with our current daily consumption and would be extracted over a long period of time. Twenty years from now, oil companies could be extracting about 900,000 barrels a day - a figure which seems impressive until you take into account that the US consumes about 20 million barrels a day currently, and has experienced a steady increase over recent years.

    Those 900,000 barrels per day wouldn't do much to lower the price of oil, either. Global consumption is currently around 75 million barrels, and will likely continue to rise. An extra 900,000 would have some effect, but I don't expect that it would be great.

    If there were good reason to drill in ANWR, say that we could expect to satisfy a large portion of our oil consumption over several decades, then I would be for it. As it stands, though, the benefits of drilling are not all that great, and the potential for environmental degradation in an otherwise pristine area is, in light of this, too great of a cost.
    posted by Tullius at 11:26 AM on March 15, 2005


    thedevildancedlightly, feel free to actually address the post. I know it's very easy to hide behind partisian snark but that gig's pretty old.

    nixerman, grow up. What's partisan about a bad-post callout. Look through my posting history and rest assured that I'm equal-opporunity about calling out lame MeFi posts.

    As for the actual post, the bias is pretty obvious. Didn't think that it needed discussion.

    6 months is a heck of a lot of oil. It's not enough to wean us off the middle-east, but it'll slow it down... as for the fragile environment this isn't the first place we've drilled in Alaska and newer drilling technology is far less intrusive than what we used then. At $50 per barrel it seems like a pretty reasonable thing to do these days.
    posted by thedevildancedlightly at 11:30 AM on March 15, 2005


    Basically the place is a frozen wasteland which hardly anyone will ever visit.

    ...as for the fragile environment this isn't the first place we've drilled in Alaska...

    Well! I'm convinced! I guess it's okay to subject it to "minimal damage" then, especially since we've done it before. I guess all those folks who study ecosystems and wildlife must have their heads up their asses.

    Or something.
    posted by Specklet at 11:35 AM on March 15, 2005


    Mikeh -

    I've seen pictures of ANWR, and it's about as desolate a stretch of frozen ground as you'd want to imagine. One consolation - there's a beautiful woman behind every tree.

    Only no trees.

    (grin)

    Seriously, the place doesn't have much vegetation to ruin, it being a standard arctic tundra. And modern oil drilling techniques are, as the saying goes, minimally invasive with a much lower environmental impact.

    (On preview - Biffa - it's more like you eating your cornflakes with somone taking a shit somewhere within a half-mile of you.)

    I tend to think that opening up ANWR is MUCH more a political move, right now. The real problem is that it's going to take (according to some estimates) 10 years to get that oil to market.

    However - with the world running on oil and China and India wanting more of the world's market - it only makes sense to get things prepped for when they're going to be needed.

    J.
    posted by JB71 at 11:38 AM on March 15, 2005


    Some Googling for info about ANWR turned up these interesting facts, first about the Gwich'ins

    "The Gwich'in Tribal Council plans to drill in a 1.4-million-acre land claims area governed by the Indians. This is an area the same size as what's been proposed for exploration in ANWR. The Indians' proposed drill sites (and a potential pipeline route) are just east of a major migratory path where the caribou often birth their calves."
    While the Eskimos who actually live in ANWR (90% of the Gwich'ins live in Canada) support drilling by an 8:1 margin.

    It also states that Government geologists say ANWR contains as much as 16 billion barrels of oil, enough to replace 10 years of Gulf imports, a tad more than the six months number that people here are bandying around.

    Link here
    posted by zeoslap at 11:39 AM on March 15, 2005


    The Heartland Institute looks like a very reputable and unbiased source there, zeoslap.
    posted by liam at 11:49 AM on March 15, 2005


    from the above link:

    ...offers some fascinating insights into the slick politics of militant environmentalism.
    posted by iamck at 11:52 AM on March 15, 2005


    At $50 per barrel it seems like a pretty reasonable thing to do these days.
    posted by thedevildancedlightly at 11:30 AM PST on March 15 [!]


    Would you consider renewable resources pretty reasonable also?
    posted by Mean Mr. Bucket at 11:55 AM on March 15, 2005


    20,000,000 barrels/day * 180 days * $55 = $198,000,000,000.
    posted by wah at 11:59 AM on March 15, 2005


    thedevildancedlightly, perhaps you should grow up. There are several ways for you to complain about a post. Your snark wasn't a callout--it was a transparent and cowardly attempt to derail the discussion. Perhaps you should just apologize and not do it again.

    As for whether 6 months of oil that won't be available for ten years can affect the price of oil today in a meaningful way, I don't buy it. Even if it could, it still doesn't make much sense. Once we begin drilling the ecosystem will be harmed forever--it's a permanent loss. But ANWR can, at best, provide very temporary oil relief. It makes absolutely zero progress in addressing America's oil dependence. Something just doesn't compute here.
    posted by nixerman at 12:01 PM on March 15, 2005


    In 2003 the US produced 5,681,000 Barrels / Day of crude and imported 9,665,000 Barrels / Day, ie it produces about 37% of what it needs, so enough oil to cover about 6 months of total consumption (ie bearing in mind what it already produces) would allow it to go without crude imports for 9.5 months. It's not going to slow down OPEC much is it?

    Even accepting the 16 billion barrels of oil stat from JB71's source is true gives a figure equal to 2.85 years of being able to fill total US crude demand or about 4.5 years of just replacing imports. Not the 10 years claimed.
    posted by biffa at 12:01 PM on March 15, 2005


    Renewable resources are great, but until we have a government-mandated day where we all drive our oil-powered cars into a big crushing machine or take them somewhere to be converted to use a renewable energy source, we're stuck with using at least some oil.

    Why can't anyone spell out a master plan, perhaps in one of those 200 page documents that think tanks seem to come up with? We could call it the policy of oil containment, and it'd involve spelling out what reserves we're going to use, what political allies we need to keep a stable supply, and some contingency plans. The end result would be a non-oil or minimal oil economy. Then when things like Alaskan drilling are proposed, we can at least justify the oil part and argue over the local details.
    posted by mikeh at 12:08 PM on March 15, 2005


    i think it's tragic.
    posted by Substrata at 12:11 PM on March 15, 2005


    mikeh, because of energy lobbyists, foreign influence, and campaign donations. After figuring out how to get Bin Laden, your comment should have been the second conversation that America should have had after September 11th.
    posted by Arch Stanton at 12:14 PM on March 15, 2005


    I agree, I'd really like to see a different plan proposed. Opposition isn't any good without a separate plan.
    posted by TetrisKid at 12:14 PM on March 15, 2005


    Personally, I'd love to see some viable non-oil alternatives. Those alternatives have to be economical (compared to the cost of oil), energy-dense and indefinitly storable(which sunlight, hydro, wind and something like hydrogen isn't, unfortunately), and a lot of the alternatives don't quite make it with those criteria.

    However, for energy density, portability, storability and on-demand availability, oil's the best alternative out there... at the present time and for the foreseeable future.

    You can argue that we shouldn't need as much as we do, that we shouldn't consume as much - but we have what we have - a world economy that's dependent on petroleum, and without a castastrophic reason to change I don't see people giving up oil-consuming items voluntarily - and even less so in developing countries.

    BTW, it was zeoslap that had the link.

    JB
    posted by JB71 at 12:25 PM on March 15, 2005


    RE: the hydrogen car debate

    Implementing a hydrogen infrastructure is much more difficult and expensive than altering the current infrastructure to use renewable biomass alternatives. Ethanol and biodeisel can replace gasoline and deisel, with minimal changes to the infrastructure and even ICEs(Internal Combustion Engine.)

    As soon as we drop the massive subsidies to Big Oil...these alternatives will be competitive.
    posted by schyler523 at 12:27 PM on March 15, 2005


    Alaska is too pretty and there are no dictatorships to "freedomize"

    I love that term! I promise to use "freedomize" as much as possible from now on :-)
    posted by clevershark at 12:28 PM on March 15, 2005


    Then again, there just MIGHT be a reasonable, high-density, storable, portable alternative coming...

    JB
    posted by JB71 at 12:32 PM on March 15, 2005


    You pro-drilling people seem to think that you can get to the oil-producing parts of ANWR without affecting anything around it. That is a completely absurd concept which just doesn't pass the laugh test. How do you think the drilling equipment will get there? How about the rest of the heavy machinery involved in the operations? Even without considering the buildup of the project, won't you have to build an infrastructure to support operations on such a remote site? It'll need an airport. It'll need roads. It'll need buildings. It'll need sewers, and even then considering the remoteness of the site what will be done about waste materials?

    The extreme conditions will also mean that oil production will be more expensive than in other places. Labor costs will be considerably higher for that location than for other locations, because 1)whatever company ends up getting the franchise will be forced to fly people in and out of the site, 2)it will have to keep more highly-paid specialty workers (such as doctors) on location, and 3)people will have to be paid more to work in such a remote location. Turnover in staff is likely to be high due to the isolation of the place.

    Those are things which need to be pondered. Sure, drilling rigs may only take up a fraction of a percent of the place, but the infrastructure necessary to keep the place running will take considerably more space and cause a great deal more environmental damage, while offering a product at a higher price than is expected.
    posted by clevershark at 12:38 PM on March 15, 2005


    Seriously, the place doesn't have much vegetation to ruin, it being a standard arctic tundra.

    And for that very reason it's ecosystem is very fragile. It is not fertile ground that can mend itself in a few years after it has been wrecked, resources are scarce up there.

    It's quite ironic that oil will contribute to the destruction of the ecosystem in two ways, both when drilled and when consumed.
    posted by hoskala at 12:47 PM on March 15, 2005


    Well here is the Indian Oil company Gwich'in Ensign Oilfield Services Inc. and they do in fact want to drill in the Mackenzi Delta so that's a tad hypocritical no?The report from the USGS states around 7 billion barrels of oil to be available which at $55 a barrel equates to $385 billion dollars worth of oil. Ka-ching.
    posted by zeoslap at 12:49 PM on March 15, 2005


    The report from the USGS states around 7 billion barrels of oil to be available which at $55 a barrel equates to $385 billion dollars worth of oil. Ka-ching.

    It's a losing proposition, though, if it costs you $56/barrel to extract it.
    posted by clevershark at 12:58 PM on March 15, 2005


    I don't know what the actual numbers regarding estimates of oil are. But, be careful about provable oil versus total oil present.

    Basically, provable oil means the amount of oil that can be practically extracted given current techniques and costs.
    Total oil is just that: total oil present, even if it cannot be extracted in a practical way.

    So: it is possible that both numbers are correct. Chances are, the 6 month figure is the provable oil, and the 16 billion barrel is total oil present.

    For what it's worth, back in the early 90s, I seem to recall the amount of provable oil in ANWR was estimated to last 3-4 months.
    posted by WL at 1:00 PM on March 15, 2005


    Just fucking drill it already. The circle-jerk that is the current administration only seems to falter when it's given enough rope to strangle its own dick.

    There's not a prayer that it will have any meaningful impact on foreign oil dependence. The sooner we use up our excuses to face the task of a rational energy policy, the better.
    posted by docpops at 1:05 PM on March 15, 2005


    From the report (you can click it y'know)

    "The total quantity of technically recoverable oil in the 1002 area is 7.7 BBO (mean value), which is distributed among 10 plays. Most of the oil is estimated to occur in the western, undeformed part of the ANWR 1002 area, which is closest to existing infrastructure. Furthermore, the oil is expected to occur in a number of accumulations rather than a single large accumulation. Estimates of economically recoverable oil, expressed by probability curves, show increasing amounts of oil with increasing price. At prices less than $13 per barrel, no commercial oil is estimated, but at a price of $30 per barrel, between 3 and 10.4 billion barrels are estimated."

    So if oil is more than $13 a barrel they make money and 7.7 BBO is recoverable oil, not total.
    posted by zeoslap at 1:07 PM on March 15, 2005


    Many thousands of people have not "thrown in the towel" on this issue. In addition to Kerry's mailing, the League of Women Voters sent out the call several weeks back. And the more hard-headed enviros are busy.

    Thanks for the post, Mean Mr. B. Discussion here proves there's plenty of convincing left to be done.

    Those with open mind and eyes might consider this essay from Defenders of Wildlife and Mary Hopson's wildflower photos.
    posted by Julie at 1:09 PM on March 15, 2005


    Hot tip for grads, get into coopering, clearly a growth industry ;-)
    posted by zeoslap at 1:10 PM on March 15, 2005


    Thanks for the link to the wildflower photos. I'll look at them as soon as I clear all of the pop-up ads off my screen.
    posted by docpops at 1:12 PM on March 15, 2005


    Does anyone care that, when ANWR was created by the Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act (ANILCA) baci in 1980, Section 1002 specifically set aside 1.5 million acres on the coastal plain (exactly what all this is about) for oil exploration?

    Or, to be clear -- ANWR was created with an idea that it would be used for oil eventually.
    posted by dwivian at 1:13 PM on March 15, 2005


    I've seen what goes on offshore. If you think the drilling in ANWR would be lean and green, don't kid yourself.
    posted by atchafalaya at 1:15 PM on March 15, 2005


    I'm for saving ANWR as much as anyone, but this post pretty much copied directly from John Kerry's email to his supporters earlier today, as KevinSkomsvold points out.
    posted by ontic at 1:15 PM on March 15, 2005


    Didn't know that dwivian, interesting. Personally I'd like to see a big push to moving to renewable energy, think space race type push. Give the oil companies bunko contracts and incentives to move in that direction if need be. With regards ANWR though I get the impression that there is an element of romanticism on the part of the opposition that isn't really grounded in the realities of the situation. <dons flamepants/>
    posted by zeoslap at 1:23 PM on March 15, 2005


    nixerman, Pointing out transparent bias and a sucky poast at the same time is not a derail. Your continued personal attacks are a derail. In the future I'll be sure to point out bias and callout sucky FPPs in seperate posts just to make things clear for the record since it's apparetnly difficult to tell sometimes when you're only looking for what you want to see.
    posted by thedevildancedlightly at 1:30 PM on March 15, 2005


    This FPP is verbatim from the John Kerry email "talking points" section
    . And who said the Democrats haven't learned how to spread talking points?


    HERE ARE YOUR SAVE THE ARCTIC REFUGE TALKING POINTS

    The Arctic National Wildlife Refuge's 19 million acres comprise one of the last places on earth where an intact expanse of arctic and sub arctic lands remains protected.
    Drilling in the Arctic Refuge can't make even a small dent in meeting America's energy needs. U.S. Geological Survey scientists estimate that there is very likely only enough oil to supply America's needs for six months. And oil companies admit that, even that, won't be available for at least 10 years.
    An irreplaceable natural treasure, the Arctic Refuge is home to caribou, polar bears, grizzly bears, wolves, golden eagles, snow geese and more. Millions of other birds use the Arctic Refuge to nest and as a critical staging area on their migratory journeys.
    Of course, the Arctic Refuge supports more than wildlife. For a thousand generations, the Gwich'in people of Northeast Alaska and Northwest Canada have depended on it and lived in harmony with it. To them, the Arctic Coastal Plain is sacred ground.

    posted by thedevildancedlightly at 1:36 PM on March 15, 2005


    zeoslap, you've been pants-less until now? I am shocked! Shocked!
    posted by Tullius at 1:38 PM on March 15, 2005


    Tullius -- all good debaters like to wear kilts.
    posted by dwivian at 1:48 PM on March 15, 2005


    metawank
    posted by Saucy Intruder at 2:00 PM on March 15, 2005


    From the Nation : In fact, as we wrote last November, drilling in "America's Serengeti"--as conservationists dub the wildlife refuge--would increase world oil reserves by only 0.3 percent, a margin too miniscule to significantly lower US oil imports or reduce the world price. Moreover, it will take ten years for that oil to reach the US market. At peak projection levels in 2027, ANWR would satisfy less than 2 percent of America's expected oil consumption.

    Maybe that's why big oil companies--who've contributed $4.4 million to Bush's two presidential campaigns--have stopped lobbying for ANWR's passage. "The enthusiasm of government officials about ANWR exceeds that of industry," Wayne Kelley, a former petroleum engineer for Halliburton and managing director of the oil consulting firm RSK, told The New York Times last month. "The evidence so far about ANWR is not promising." Lee Raymond, chairman and chief executive of ExxonMobil, the company that stands to gain the most from opening up the Refuge, remarked last December: "I don't know if there's anything in ANWR or not."
    posted by faux ami at 2:22 PM on March 15, 2005


    Clevershark: Gale Norton, Bush's secretary of the interior, had an interesting op-ed in the New York Times about the drilling on Monday, which seems to address a lot of the well-put points you brought up:

    How do you think the drilling equipment [etc...] will get there? Apparently, on roads built over the ice. Norton says that currently, drilling only takes place in the winter. That's something I hadn't realized before.

    You also made some good points about the difficulty of working up north, but (unfortunately) I don't think they lead to the conclusion that the area shouldn't be opened up.

    1)whatever company ends up getting the franchise will be forced to fly people in and out of the site, 2)it will have to keep more highly-paid specialty workers (such as doctors) on location, and 3)people will have to be paid more to work in such a remote location. Turnover in staff is likely to be high due to the isolation of the place.

    All of this may be true, but if so, it is an argument for letting private companies take over the excavation, rather than an argument against excavating itself. If a company can't make pump oil profitably under these conditions, it won't do it. A government operation, on the other hand, wouldn't necessarily be bound by the need to make profits, and could just go ahead and drill regardless (using money from Social Security, for example). That would be bad.

    Finally, the conclusion that drilling in Anwar will end up offering a product at a higher price than is expected is incorrect. Oil is a commodity. No one could charge more for oil pumped from Anwar than for oil produced someplace else.
    posted by nyterrant at 3:01 PM on March 15, 2005


    Am I the only one puzzled about peeps saying 6 months is a lot of oil? What is going to be accomplished w/ 6 months of oil that is of a long term significance?
    posted by dig_duggler at 3:10 PM on March 15, 2005


    The USGS reports:

    The total quantity of technically recoverable oil within the entire assessment area is estimated to be between 5.7 and 16.0 billion barrels (95-percent and 5-percent probability range), with a mean value of 10.4 billion barrels. Technically recoverable oil within the ANWR 1002 area (excluding State and Native areas) is estimated to be between 4.3 and 11.8 billion barrels (95- and 5-percent probability range), with a mean value of 7.7 billion barrels (table 1)

    That's technically recoverable. Economically recoverable is another issue. Again, from the USGS:

    At a market price of $24 per barrel, there is a 95 percent probability of at least 2.0 BB of economically recoverable oil and a 5-percent probability of at least 9.4 BB. The mean or expected value is at least 5.2 BB of economically recoverable oil at $24 per barrel.

    Bear in mind that this report is converting all fossil fuels to equivalent barrels of oil. This is relevant for gas production, which may or may not be flared off (probably will be). So, to be optimisitic, lets take the mean "technically recoverable" ~8 billion barrels of oil for area 1002.

    1998 oil (just oil, not total fossil fuels) consumption (according to USGS, again) is 18.9 million barrels a day. I can't be bothered to find updated figures, but we can safely assume present consumption is at least 20 million barrels a day.

    So a rosy scenario has area 1002 satisfying about a year's domestic consumption. The USGS's numbers are likely too optimistic, and the US domestic consumption will continue to rise (unless the economy crashes and burns). A year, therefore is an upper bound and the six month figure may be quite close to the truth.

    There is no way you can reasonably argue that opening 1002 to drilling is going to do anything to solve, and very little to soften, the coming oil crunch. Frankly, trading in your SUV's for hybrids isn't going to do squat either.

    Hold on to your seats, fellas.
    posted by bumpkin at 3:23 PM on March 15, 2005


    Am I the only one puzzled about peeps saying 6 months is a lot of oil? What is going to be accomplished w/ 6 months of oil that is of a long term significance?

    Long Term Significance? Oil companies aren't looking at long term significance, they're looking at only 2 questions:

    1) Is there oil?

    2) Is it economic to drill it?

    If they can answer yes to both those 2 questions they'll drill that well, regardless of where it's located. No matter if that well goes dry in 6 months or 6 years.

    Think about it this way, if "Oil Company A" can make the cost of drilling the well back, they'll seriously look into drilling that well. It's how the industry looks at things, because they'll never really know what the reservoirs are like until they drill them, run some DST's on them, and produce from them.
    posted by tempest2i at 3:52 PM on March 15, 2005


    oil prices are so high now (50+ no?) that it's now feasible for them, unfortunately.

    meanwhile, i've heard there's tons and tons of oil off florida's coasts--much more than in the Arctic Refuge, but Jeb won't let them drill--is that true?
    posted by amberglow at 3:57 PM on March 15, 2005


    From what I've heard, oil exploration companies routinely do their feasibility calculations using conservative oil prices, e.g., $27 a barrel, in order to give themselves wriggle room and attract financing. So if private companies do go in, and aren't subsidized by the govt., chances are they can do the excavation profitably at prices well below the current $55 market price.
    posted by nyterrant at 4:31 PM on March 15, 2005


    Or, to be clear -- ANWR was created with an idea that it would be used for oil eventually.

    wow, must've taken an awful lot of trucks to get all that snow and all them animals up there. maybe after ruining this place you could just "create" a new one?

    aw fuck it, drill away. the rapture is coming soon enough, so who cares about nature and shit.
    posted by mr.marx at 4:39 PM on March 15, 2005


    here's some FL info: Repeated deepwater discoveries are fueling renewed interest in what the industry refers to as the eastern Gulf, or to be more precise, Florida's coast, where an estimated 5 billion barrels of oil and 10 trillion cubic feet of natural gas await. A barrel is the equivalent of 42 gallons.

    Most of the area has been off-limits to oil drilling or even exploration for nearly two decades, through moratoriums established first by Congress and then extended by the first President Bush, and later Bill Clinton, until 2012. The temporary ban covers all areas of the Outer Continental Shelf within 100 miles of the Florida coast.

    But oil companies aren't waiting another decade to test the waters.

    In 2001, the federal government announced plans to auction leases on 6 million acres of offshore oil and gas patches south of the Florida Panhandle. A public outcry ensued, with a coalition ranging from tourism boosters and environmentalists to Gov. Jeb Bush, local Panhandle politicians and all but one of the state's congressional members crying foul over images of oil derricks and towering platforms within view of the Gulf's pristine beaches.

    A compromise reduced the auction block, known as Lease Area 181, to 1.5 million acres located nearly 300 miles west of Tampa and due south of the Alabama-Florida border. Early last year, Shell, Marathon Oil, Amerada Hess and 14 other companies bid a total of $340.4 million for leasing rights. Since then, 14 exploration plans have been filed and two test wells drilled, the federal official who oversees Gulf oil and gas drilling told a group of industry insiders at an offshore technology conference in Houston this summer.


    So, if we destroy the Arctic Refuge because we need the oil so desperately, let's put oil wells up and down the coast of Florida too--it's only fair, no? That would be the perfect poison pill to any bill presented to Congress.
    posted by amberglow at 4:53 PM on March 15, 2005


    So, 5 billion barrels of oil will provide us with how much for how long, as compared to the Arctic Refuge?
    posted by amberglow at 4:56 PM on March 15, 2005


    Substrata summed it up for me: it's tragic.
    posted by muckster at 5:05 PM on March 15, 2005


    I'm against drilling, but I really don't think it's that big a deal; it's just stupid. It's only part of the refuge/reserve, and really, how much pollution is likely to ever happen? The harm is not even aesthetic; it's psychological.

    It's just stupid that there are politicians who think this is going to make much of a difference re petrol availability.
    posted by ParisParamus at 5:05 PM on March 15, 2005


    You know, it's sad. I honestly think that there is a large subset of the American population that just can't even stand the idea of something like ANWR existing -- something they personally have no use for (wildlife refuge), being preserved (I think the 'p word' itself makes them grit their teeth) at the expense of some sort of instant economic gratification (especially oil). This idea of something going unexploited (if only for the time being) is simply anathema to them. Doesn't even fit into their equation.

    America - where shortsightedness is not only an economic and environmental policy, but a way of life.
    posted by afroblanca at 5:20 PM on March 15, 2005


    I guess I should say that I'm definitely not talking about all Americans, just most of the ones currently running the place.
    posted by afroblanca at 5:25 PM on March 15, 2005


    You know what? F*ck it. Stupidity like this doesn't come from any country or administration.

    What can I say? Is there officially a name for the darker side of human nature?
    posted by afroblanca at 5:36 PM on March 15, 2005


    I think you want "hubris", afroblanca. Although more and more frequently, I think you just want "human nature".
    posted by ontic at 6:02 PM on March 15, 2005


    Frankly, this whole debate makes me pissed off that the level of political discourse in this country is entirely on an emotional level. It's become "the damn hippies are fucking everyting up" vs. "the asshole fascists are fucking everything up." I am an environmentalist, and I vote Democratic. Even so, people here (mostly of the same leanings as myself), are not thinking about issues in a rational way. The issue here is whether it is worth minimally disrupting wildlife in a tiny, remote corner of the world in exchange for 200 billion dollars worth of badly needed oil. The natural environment is disrupted a little more every second that human beings continue to exist. That is inevitable, and its effects are desirable. We would all be dead if we didn't farm, mine, and graze on massive portions of the country. The only question is whether it is worth it to drill in this particular part of the country. There are costs, and there are benefits. If you compare the damage done from drilling for oil to the damage done for example, by coal mining, it's tiny. Why do you people think it is acceptable to simply call the opposition stupid or ugly americans without making an actual argument? Your attitude is completely opposite to the values of the liberal tradition.
    posted by cameldrv at 9:19 PM on March 15, 2005


    Because if what you say is true, then we'd have drilling rigs up and down every coast of this country--and especially all over Florida. You'd be seeing them from every beachfront home and town--everywhere.

    They're not calling for that, are they? It's because of political reasons and who's in charge where. If decisions are being made because of politics and not cost/benefit analysis, then you can't fight or even discuss things on a rational basis.
    posted by amberglow at 9:26 PM on March 15, 2005


    People don't want more drilling in the gulf because of the possbility of an offshore oil spill. Drilling offshore is more complicated, and the oil is much harder to contain in the water than it is on land. People don't want the beaches that they actually use and enjoy to be contaminated by oil. Frankly, they don't care if a couple hundred acres of frozen tundra get covered in oil, and why should they? Because some Caribou have to walk around it? Because they'll have to use some of the other millions of acres in Alaska? People who don't want gulf drilling actually have a legitimate point to make. There might come a time where we need the oil badly enough to take that risk, but it's obvious that the risks and consequences of failure are a lot less in ANWR than in the Gulf.
    posted by cameldrv at 11:53 PM on March 15, 2005


    Renewable resources sound great, but still have MAJOR hurdles to overcome. Something like 95% of hydrogen is manufactured using oil, because oil is the cheapest source of energy we have. Creating hydrogen is ~70% net loss of energy, making hydrogen always a net energy loss. Solar returns ~10 EROI(Energy Return on Investment) and wind is ~7 EROI. Compare that to oil as something like ~50 EROI and thats why we are still using oil. It would help a lot if our govt stopped subsidizing gas/oil prices and gave these technologies a fair shot right now, but I highly doubt we will see any such initaive in this administration.

    They are drilling on 1.5 million acres of ANWR's 19 million acres. While I wish we could keep it for the caribou and the Eskimos, I think this is inevitable. Why is it Ok to drill in other countries and fuck up their ecosystems but not our own? That being said, I would feel a lot better about it if it was used as a wake up call and a stepping stone to the difficult future of renewables.
    posted by sophist at 2:00 AM on March 16, 2005


    In response to cameldrv's original comment- I don't think there's anything wrong with getting emotional about issues like this. The Right is not in any way afraid to get emotional about the things that matter to them, and they're winning. Maybe our failure to display righteous indignation where appropriate is what is killing us.
    posted by afroblanca at 9:23 AM on March 16, 2005


    Tar Sands:
    Tar sands deposits are found all over the world, with the largest deposits located in Venezuela and Alberta, Canada. While not a proven reserve of oil, tar sands represent as much as 66% of the world's deposits of oil, with 34% (286 km³ or 1.8 trillion barrels) in the Venezuelan Orinoco tar sands deposit, 32% (270 km³ or 1.7 trillion barrels) in Canada's Athabasca Tar Sands deposit and the remaining 33% (278 km³ or 1.75 trillion barrels) in conventional oil, much of it in Saudi Arabia and other Middle-Eastern countries.
    So something like a quarter of the world's oil is still in Alberta. The dinky bit of oil in the ANWR isn't even worth thinking about.
    posted by five fresh fish at 10:59 AM on March 16, 2005


    This link may not work for all. It is from march 2005 american association petroleum geologists bulletin:

    Petroleum geology and resource assessment:1002 Area

    Several man years have gone into preparing an estimate of 12 -> 32 billion barrels. Keeping our leader's pals away from that is like getting between a dog and a bone.
    posted by bukvich at 11:29 AM on March 16, 2005


    So something like a quarter of the world's oil is still in Alberta. The dinky bit of oil in the ANWR isn't even worth thinking about.

    That's true but the make-up of the slurry in Alberta and most of Canada is almost worthless because of the amount of refining it would take to render it usable. It's just not economically viable.
    posted by TetrisKid at 12:34 PM on March 16, 2005


    It's done-- they voted 51-49 to allow it. The 19-million-acre refuge was set aside for protection by President Eisenhower in 1960...

    How the GOP have fallen.
    posted by amberglow at 1:32 PM on March 16, 2005


    Pshaw, TetrisKid. The COS projects are moving ahead at full steam, with great expansions taking place last year and this year. The technology is advancing rapidly, and the projects are consumately viable.

    I just notice Venezula has a hefty chunk of the world's oil. No wonder Bush is making bad noises about that country. What a frigging prick of a President.
    posted by five fresh fish at 1:46 PM on March 16, 2005


    Said mr.marx:
    wow, must've taken an awful lot of trucks to get all that snow and all them animals up there. maybe after ruining this place you could just "create" a new one?

    wow, must've taken both brain cells to make the leap from the creation of a refuge as a legal entity to trucking in snow from Canada (major export: cold air masses).

    Explain how we will ruin ANWR by allowing drilling on an area that is like a postage stamp to an area rug, and do so using valid examples from regions doing likewise, like other Alaskan drilling operations where they are so paranoid about oil contamination that when a vehicle visits a rig it has to put down a drip sheet to catch anything coming off the engine block....
    posted by dwivian at 2:05 PM on March 16, 2005


    Or, for that matter, the NWT diamond mines...
    posted by five fresh fish at 9:44 AM on March 17, 2005






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