Monday, December 26, 2005


George Will opines on ANWR via Townhall

"Our fake drilling debate"

Dr. Will makes many of the same technical points usually made when discussing the issue, then goes on to characterize the matter as a battle in the never-ending war between "liberal" socialism and "conservative" capitalism...

If only ANWR were that simple. Just another cynical manipulation by "watermellons" who mean "control" when they say "protect"...

It's not. And the reasons why not are important to understanding where "we" really are in the great petroleum binge - and on environmentl issues in general.

It also teaches a few lessons in the manipulations of the side Dr.Will speaks for...

I should explain I don't have a strong opinion on this subject. I expect ANWR will be exploited at some time in the future - it is denialistic to insist otherwise - but I think the longer put off, the better. I also think it's denialistic to claim ANWR can be exploited without doing a lot of ecological damage.

Just as it's denialistic to suggest man can - or should - always avoid doing damage to the environment in the quest for that which makes us safe, comfortable, and affluent...

The real question is how much damage for the return?

North to Alaska... From the gold rush to the oil boom, it's been the stuff of dreams. Prudehoe Bay certainly fit the mold: It's the largest oil field yet discovered in North America, and very possibly the last truly huge single field that will ever be discovered in the world. Ten billion barrels of oil have been removed from the field, and there are at least three billion remaining that can be extracted easily.

All this from a single deposit 9,000 feet below ground and encompassing no more than 5,000 surface acres. There are nine other North Slope fields, but the largest is but a tithe of Prudehoe.

So what of ANWR?

By chance or design - or both - the great Alaskan black gold rush took out the motherlode first. ANWR's oil fields are like the "also rans" around Prudehoe, which is important to know if one is going to understand what is actually being proposed. There is no great "motherlode" in ANWR: There are instead dozens to hundreds of discrete, small fields.

So how does this fit into the "2,000 acre limit" Dr. Will and others discuss?

Imagine a net. Only the knots count as "used"...

Here's one man's attempt to explain it graphically:

It's old, and you may choose to question the source. But it's worth a look.

The plan is to spread that "2,000 acres" out over 1.5 million acres and employ horizontal drilling to exploit those small, scattered fields. Only permanent construction counts toward the total. Ice roads and helipads, pipelines, etc. don't count.

Well, so what? It's still a damned small footprint...

Well, maybe.

First of all, much of the rest will be traversed - much has been traversed - in the exploratory steps.

So what? For practical purposes, that's permanent. There probably isn't a single place on the planet with less regenerative capacity. The effects of everything done up there will linger for a very long time. Oil spills in the Prudehoe Bay area going back thirty years have been monitored, and the land where those spills occurred hasn't recovered.

But the caribou like the pipelines, right? What about those pictures of the herds cozying up to the pipelines? What about the population increases?

Well, not everyone agrees this is the case. For one thing, counts notwithstanding, studies have shown fertility is down. For another, studies have demonstrated that given the option of avoiding the development, the herds do avoid it. We naked apes like warm surroundings, but caribou are cold adapted. Worse, the blowflies that pester them - and nest in their nostrils - thrive in warm surrounds.

It's a bit of manipulation, in fact: Those photos of "happy" caribou resting along the pipeline are taken near crossings at natural bottlenecks. That's common sense, after all. Unless you feed them, show me a wild animal that seeks man out.

Furthermore, the herds may have grown, but there could be other explanations for the increase: It might be due to decreased predation - man is rough on predators - or it could be part of a larger cycle, for example. It might be due to a warming climate...

Some people think "Global Warming" is natural. If man isn't affecting the climate, is it certain man is affecting the caribou?

And who says more is better? How does [will?] an expanding population survive on a fixed food supply?

The point is, we don't know. So let's not pretend we do.

We do know, however, that the largest herd of caribou in the whole region calves in the northern coastal area of ANWR as a matter of choice, apparently because of the food supply.

Right in the middle of the proposed drilling...

Well, who needs caribou anyway? Who needs the whole damned North Slope ecosystem?

Here's a bit of heresy for the greenies: If we utterly ruin the North Slope, the world will keep turning. Ecologically, all places aren't equal. This isn't a lynchpin ecosystem like the Amazon rainforest. Man has in fact ruined far more ecologically vital places: The Persian Gulf was once an environmental powerhouse. Now it's mostly destroyed in an ecological sense. Yet "mother earth" has survived...

Just babbling? Just middle of the road meandering, waiting for the wheels to hit?

No, an explanation by example: Man's quest for more and better has never been a "win-win" viewed from the whole-Earth perspective. It's just been choices, and the bad, whatever that was, was accepted perforce whenever we took the good.

How much "bad" we are forced to accept tomorrow will have a lot to do with how carefully we choose the "good" today.

Prudehoe Bay is mostly gone; gone as is much of what was once the bounty of the Earth. Much of what is gone was squandered, sometimes leaving behind tattered ecosystems and nothing else...

Nothing, that is, except the lessons learned and the technologies created. Bounty for wisdom... Not a bad trade, if the wisdom is used to its potential.

ANWR could be a good opportunity to test that potential.

Win-win, anyone?

...and the food you eat is cast out at the privy, so why bother.
What a pathetic little pissant critique.
The USGS estimates that Area 1002 of ANWR (which is what we are talking about, 2000 acres within a 1.5 M acre area of a 19 M acre reserve), contains 5.9 Billion Barrels of Oil (BBO), with an upper limit estimate up to 10 BBO.
Not bad with a 2000 Acre production footprint, compared to Prudhoe Bay, all in all.
Estimated (again via USGS, *not* an evil capitalist oil company or leftist study group) daily production of the Area 1002 fields are 1.2 Million Barrels per day.
That is approximately the amount of oil we import from Venezuela.
Work can, and should continue on weaning us off of an oil-energy economy. I would love to see tax credits and initiatives to make us truly energy independant. But even if we start next Monday (Jan 1, 2006), with our nose to the grindstone, we are years away from the day that we dont need oil.
For now, I would rather inconvenience the caribou. The alternative is oil rigs off the coast of florida and california. Becuase we also need to keep in mind that India and China are modernizing rapidly, with an increasing thirst for oil, just like us.
Balderdash, 'n fiddle-de-dumb! Emphasis on DUMB. First, I'm not associated with the oil industry, but I did live in Alaska for well over 20 years and do know the facts. Aside from its tiny geographical impact, less than 1/100th of One-Percent of ANWR even bein g touched -- and it's a barren desert, not the darling mountains/streams, et al., it must be remembered that, contrary to the Sierra Clubbers, the caribou thrived, tripled in numbers in the decade following the pipeline; and, lest we forget, the greenies were promising that there wasn't enough oil in Prudhou to make any difference, and their lawsuits delayed the drilling and eventual pumping of much needed oil for several years. But, no, they're still pumping, 30+ years later! It's enough to replace all the oil imported from Saudi Arabia. Lastly, for this short epic at least, Alaskans WANT to drill in ANWR, they don't want to rape their own land and make it a garbage dump as the so-called "environmental" community suggests - - - so, go ahead and look for other options and types of future power sources. But, in the meantime, to not tap the oil potential in ANWR is criminal.
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