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Wednesday, April 30, 2008

It Takes 10 Years

One of the reasons we keep hearing about not drilling for oil in the Alaskan Wildlife Refuge, from just about everyone opposed, is that it will take 10 years to actually get oil to the market.

Oddly, had we started drilling there in 1991, when George H.W. Bush proposed it, and Democrats filibustered the idea to death, or 1995, when Bill Clinton vetoed the budget because of an ANWR provision, we'd be seeing that oil on the market today. In fact, it would have been there for the last 3-6 years.

Robert J. Samuelson of the Washington Post points out the fantasy world of the folks opposed to exploration in the US in a column today, and says "Start Drilling". He not only suggests ANWR, but the coastal shelf and deep Gulf of Mexico areas.

He points out some inconvient truths for the folks stonealling drilling projects and exploration in the Gulf. Environmentalists complain about the possibility of huge oil spills caused by hurricanes. Yet we've been drilling in the gulf for decades, had dozens of hurricanes hit hundreds of rigs, and the "massive spill" there has yet to occur.

Ethanol has proven on the world food market that it's not the answer to energy independence. Higher fuel standards here will help, slightly. But they won't make up for the increased use of oil in China, Brazil, India and other emerging markets. Those markets have helped increase world demand by nearly 25% in the last 15 years. The only way back to reasonably priced fuel is increasing supply.

I pointed out a few days ago that even if we start pumping from ANWR that oil won't end up in US gas tanks, we've got no where to refine it on the west coast, and transporation to the gulf where there is some capacity is too expensive. However, if you put 5% of the US demand on the world oil market, it does help with price stability.

What should really bother environmentalists is that a China Cuba consortium is about to start exploration and drilling in the deep waters of the Gulf of Mexico. If their doomsday scenarios prove true, who would they rather have in charge, the US companies, where there might be some legal recourse, or China and Cuba, who don't really care what we think?

Energy independence isn't going to come quick, or easy, and as ethanol has proven, there are unintended consequences for the "no new oil" mantra of envirnomentalists. The real question is, do we look for independence with a common sense approach that includes more US oil, and alternative, or do we keep up this charade that we can ween ourselves off oil completely, with no pain?

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