A new study released by the World Resources Institute (WRI) reveals that while the Arctic National WildlifeRefuge may yield as much as 10.3 billion barrels of oil, it will not change the long-term outlook for the country's overwhelming and rapidly growing dependence on foreign oil sources.
"Opening up the Arctic to the pollution and disruption of oil productioncannot succeed as an energy security strategy," said Dr. Nancy Kete,director of WRI's Climate, Energy and Pollution Program. Companies are currently pressing for the opening of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge --the size of South Carolina - to oil production. Environmental groups opposethe move.
"We cannot rely on the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to significantlyalleviate our long-term security problems stemming from heavy reliance onincreasingly imported oil," said Dr. James Mackenzie, author of Facing theU.S. Oil Supply Problem: Would Opening up the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge Really Make a Difference?
Dr. Mackenzie said that over the next 20 years, the Department of Energy estimates that US oil demand will increase by 33 percent, and to meet this demand, oil imports will have to increase from today's 55 percent of supplyto 70 percent. He added that during this time, oil production in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge can only make a marginal contribution to solvingthe nation's oil security problems.
"We must face the inescapable fact that the nation's environment, economy,national security and oil resource base all point to the need for vastinvestments in energy efficiency and the rapid introduction of new, non-oilenergy sources," said Dr. Kete.
The U.S. consumes about 19.4 million barrels of oil daily, two-thirds ofwhich is consumed in transportation. Crude oil production, however, is only4.9 million barrels per day in the lower 48 states plus 970,000 barrels perday from Alaska's North Slope.
The new WRI study also reveals:
- Crude oil production in the lower 48 states peaked in 1970 and has beendeclining since.
- Crude oil production in Alaska's North Slope peaked in 1988 - ten yearsafter it was opened up for production. It has fallen by 50 percent sincethen.
- The U.S. accounts for about 25 percent of global oil consumption but hasonly 3 percent of proven global oil reserves. US oil consumption in the transportation sector has risen by 42 percent since the Arab oil embargo of1973.
- Global oil production is likely to peak sometime between 2010 and 2020.
"When oil production peaks and starts declining in non-OPEC countries,control over global oil supply - including availability and price - willinevitably shift to the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries," saidDr. MacKenzie. "If energy security and oil independence are national goals,reducing demand for oil in the near term and introducing non-oil energysources in the longer term will be far more prudent than opening new oilfields."
The Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, established in 1960, is among the mostcomplete, pristine, and undisturbed ecosystems on earth. Coastal lagoons,barrier islands, arctic tundra, foothills, mountains, and boreal forestsprovide a combination of habitats, climate, and geography unmatched by anyother northern conservation area.
Written by: The World Resources Institute
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