Hedging his bet on energy policy with an eye on the election, President Biden finally allowed the Conoco-Phillips Willow Project to proceed in Alaska’s National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR), which will deliver 180,000 barrels of oil a day to the Trans-Alaska pipeline. This triggered knee-jerk theatrical outrage from radical enviros on the political left. Anticipating that pushback, Biden simultaneously pledged to ban future oil and gas drilling in ANWR. This is the latest stage in his war on fossil fuels after having banned new leasing in ANWR on his first day in office. Drilling in ANWR has been a see-sawing political football for four decades between dogmatic enviros and supporters of practical energy policies.
To put ANWR in perspective, size matters. Alaska is humongous, bigger than Texas, California, and Montana combined! 99% of Alaska is owned by government, including 192 million acres of parks, wilderness areas and preserves. ANWR comprises 19.6 million acres, much of it the stuff of picture post cards. And 92% of it can’t be touched by developers. In 1980, Congress set aside a small slice of ANWR, 1.5 million acres of already populated coastal plain known as the 1002 Area, for oil and gas development. At the time, the U.S. Geological Survey estimated ANWR could yield 16 billion barrels of oil, the equivalent of 30 years of oil imports from Saudi Arabia. With today’s drilling technology the yield is far greater.
Contrary to the false impression given by enviros, the 1002 Area is not an idyllic retreat for nature lovers. Having been there, conservative commentator Jonah Goldberg described it as a dismal, treeless coastal plain where winters last for nine months, punctuated by 58 consecutive days of total darkness with temperatures dropping to 70 degrees below zero. The all-too-brief summer includes an infestation of caribou-eating mosquitoes spawned from puddles of freestanding water in the flat tundra as far as the eye can see. Before it became politically fashionable, the liberal Washington Post called the 1002 Area “one of the bleakest, most remote places on this continent, and there is hardly any other area where drilling would have less impact on surrounding life.”
Oil drilling must follow stringent environmental protections and is restricted to a scant 2,000 acres, one-hundredth of one percent of ANWR. All of ANWR is about the size of South Carolina. By comparison, the drilling area is about the size of Denver International Airport. Some other size comparisons provided in 2001 by Interior Secretary Gail Norton in 2001 are instructive.
If the state of Alaska were a football field, all of ANWR would fill the space between the goal line and the six-yard line, the 1002 Area would be at the one-half yard line, and the actual area of energy production within ANWR would equal less than the length of one link on the 10-yard first down chain.
If the state of Alaska were a two-hour movie, ANWR would represent six minutes and 24 seconds, the 1002 Area would be equal to one half-minute, and the area of energy production would be four-hundredths of a second, the time it takes to blink your eye.
The feigned outrage by hysterical enviros over the 1002 Area has always been more about symbolism than substance. The world’s existential need for energy requires a balance between environmental concerns and economic reality.
In her much-acclaimed 2018 tweet (now deleted), child-activist Greta Thunberg feared “climate change will wipe out all of humanity unless we stop using fossil fuels over the next five years.” Well, it’s 2023, the world is still using fossil fuels and will continue to do so for many years to come because there’s no practical substitute for their many uses, and little Greta will live to be 100. If Al Gore’s dire predictions 40 years ago about rising sea levels had come to pass Miami Beach would now be under water. This is how the shepherd boy who cried wolf lost credibility.
The Earth’s climate has had huge temperature swings in recurring cycles with ice ages coming and going over its four-billion-year existence, eons before humans, fossil fuels, cars, planes, and trains.
Compared to the overpowering influence of solar activity and myriad variables beyond our comprehension and control, the notion that human activity is the primary cause of climate change is a grand conceit.
Climate change alarmism is a Trojan horse filled with hidden agendas and leftist politics to justify ideological ends and government controls that have nothing to do with climate, while squandering trillions of dollars on a fool’s errand to avert a make-believe climate doomsday a hundred years from now.
Mike Rosen is a Denver-based American radio personality and political commentator.