The potential of vast petroleum riches underlying the coastal plain of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge is really not disputed, except by the anti-development zealots who want no more oil drilling anywhere in Alaska.
What is new in this picture, however, is a forecast that ups the number of potential barrels of oil to be recovered in the area and says ANWR could help fuel this nation's energy needs for upwards of 60 years.
The anti-crowd keeps dragging out its old and long-discredited claim that ANWR isn't worth developing because, at most, the potential reserves are sufficient to meet only a few months of the national demand.
Well, not exactly.
The Department of Energy in a report issued this past Tuesday said there are between 5.7 billion and 16 billion barrels of recoverable oil along the coast of ANWR, with a mean estimate of recoverable oil of about 10.3 billion barrels. The previous study of recoverable oil in the refuge, done in 1987, put the mean estimate of recoverable oil at 3.4 billion barrels.
The study by the department's Energy Information Agency said that 16 billion barrels of oil would last at least 30 years and maybe as many as six decades.
The study was requested by Sen. Frank Murkowski, chairman of the Senate Energy Committee. It provides yet another substantiation of the merit of oil and gas exploration and development in the area, something long opposed by the Clinton-Gore administration.
The Wall Street Journal, in its report on the findings, said the ''new study predicts a high rate of production from the refuge for 30 years after oil is discovered. The only other untapped source of U.S. oil is some 23 million barrels that the EIA estimates is stored in thousands of small reservoirs in Texas, the Rocky Mountains and other high-cost production areas.''
That's good news for America's energy hopes.
The always-anti-crowd. naturally, doesn't think much of the whole business. It was quick to repeat its old shop-worn comments, as reflected in a predicable statement in the Journal from Melinda Pierce, senior Washington lobbyist for the Sierra Club. ''No amount of oil is worth sacrificing this spectacular landscape and its value to all Americans,'' she said.
Fortunately, those who know better understand that production from any discoveries on the coastal plain would occupy only a tiny piece of that Arctic coastal landscape.
And the good news of this report comes at a time when it appears likely there will be a change of attitude in the White House as the sorry Clinton-Gore act is given the hook and jerked off stage.
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