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Arctic Oil Drilling

Gas prices are increasing roughly every month or so as a result of the scarcity of oil. Some people just shrug the price increase off and cope with it, but the economic effect is far greater than it first appears. As the price of oil increases, so does the price of all other products that are transported. There is, however, an opportunity for the United States to increase the supply of available crude oil by drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. The idea of drilling in the Arctic has been controversial and to the present day is still being debated.

The United States’ need to determine whether drilling in the Arctic will be a worthwhile consideration, or if there are not sufficient benefits to counteract the harmful possibilities drilling possesses. Drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge provides many immediate economic benefits for the United States. Given the current economic struggles that Americans are already facing, jobs have been hard to obtain. With the approval to drill in the Arctic, job opportunities can be created which will decrease the job struggle.

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Over a million jobs will be created if Arctic drilling is approved to drill and transport the new oil. These new jobs would provide secure employment for Americans who are unemployed. This is a definite beneficial short term advantage of approving the right to drill for oil in the Arctic. In 2007, the United States imported 330 billion barrels, or sixty percent of the United States total oil (“Top Ten”). The biggest domestic source of oil is located in the North Slope oil fields.

These oil fields cover nearly 214 thousand acres, and produced 25 billion barrels a day at one point and are operated by BP and Phillips. With a majority of the nation’s oil being imported, it not only needs to be transported, usually by ship, but costs a great deal more for the country as well. Georgia’s Senator, The Honorable Zell Miller, who has continually been fighting for drilling in his congressional campaigns, had a firm opinion: We import 57% of the energy we consume every day from foreign sources that fix the price and do not have our country’s best interests in heart.

How can anyone be comfortable with this situation? (Miller) Senator Zell Miller then went on to say that if the situation was changed to something seen as more essential, such as food, the public would have a very different response. The Arctic National Wildlife Refuge may yield anywhere from nine to sixteen billion barrels in the twenty million acre area. Drilling for this oil would not only decrease the percent of oil we import, making the nation slightly more independent, but it would also keep prices in a range in which people will purchase extra goods other than just necessities.

The United States relies heavily on American citizens purchasing their necessities, but more importantly their wants. The nation depends considerably on consumer purchases, and seventy percent of the economy’s growth comes from these expenses. Ten percent of the lower class income is going towards everyday provisions, including crude oil. Now at the same time, without diminishing oil imports, oil prices will continue to increase, and in the words of Hale Stewart, “higher energy prices usually decrease consumer sentiment, which can lead to decreasing consumer spending” (Stewart).

If the United States is unable to control the rapidly increasing sales prices either by drilling in the Arctic or by other means, the nation is in for a rude awakening. The benefits of newly created jobs stapled with a smaller reliance on foreign suppliers are persuasive; however, there are environmentalists who believe these benefits are not worth the risks that drilling in the Arctic possesses. The green group refers to the potential of an oil spill as a major reason against the drilling proposal.

There’s no proven technology for cleaning up oil in icy water, which can render skimming boats useless – much less able to cope with a gusher under the ice. In the worst-case scenario… when the seas are freezing over, oil could flow unabated until relief wells could be drilled the following summer. (Dickinson) Even with advanced technology at our fingertips, there is the potential for errors which could lead to oil spills. If a spill occurred in this region, the effects could be detrimental to the ocean.

Oil and gas industries have plenty of experience and history of preventing oil spills, but they have “little experience in containing and cleaning up oil spills” (“Oil”). With the possibility of polluting the water, the plan for Arctic drilling loses the votes of all environmentalists, a group that is not to be trifled with. If authorization to drill in this region relied upon the approval of the environmentalists, it could be nearly impossible because of their strong lobbying power. The drilling is also viewed as a diversion to the country’s real dilemma, which is its disproportionately high rate of oil use.

Americans guzzle up over twenty-five percent of the world’s total oil consumption. The United States should be working on making vehicles more fuel efficient so that a gallon of oil goes a long way rather than sucking the earth dry of all its oil. This fact, by itself, is seen as a more pertinent problem on which the country should focus instead of increasing available production. Another reason against the drilling in the Arctic region is that, even if the drilling is approved, there may not be as large yield as expected. All the statistics about how much oil exists beneath the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge come solely from estimates.

So, even if approved and the country spends the money to begin drilling, it could all be for nothing and a waste of time and money. Although there are perceived benefits to the Arctic drilling, in the end the question of “do the ends justify the means” cannot be answered affirmatively. The United States consumes excessive amounts of oil, and we should be spending money and working harder to find efficient alternative energy sources. The rest of the world has found ways to live consuming far less oil than the United States, so with a little change in lifestyle, the nation can slowly wean itself from using oil excessively.

Oil is a non-renewable source of energy that will not always be available; especially at the rate we are consuming it. There are renewable sources of energy available. Solar power is a big one; the sun will always be there, and the sun supplies a boundless amount of energy to be used. Rather than taking the easy short-term route and continuing to use oil until it is gone for good, researching alternatives should be the top priority over searching for oil reserves.

Finding and using renewable energy sources eliminates the temptation of milking the oil until it is all gone and then forcing us to scramble to find a new energy source. The possibility that there is even a chance that drilling will not yield the estimated quantities is reason enough to find other viable alternatives. The United States will, in time, ultimately decide if the nation will drill in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. If the country decides to drill, it could realize that the drilling was merely stalling an inevitable problem.

When oil does become unavailable, there needs to be alternative sources of energy, and if the country chooses to ignore this reality, it will suffer two big consequences: the economy will experience much more hardship than it ever has, and the United States may become inferior to other countries and lose the power it once had as a nation. The other possibility is that the decision will be made to shut down the proposal to drill in the Arctic region. Oil will still be available for some time, although the price may continue to increase, and eventually Americans will be forced to use alternative sources of energy.

This transition from oil being used as the primary source of energy to an alternate source, such as solar power or hydro-electric energy, will allow the nation to not rely as heavily upon importing from other countries. Drilling in the Arctic will not lower gas prices or make the United States more independent. The only way to achieve both of these goals would be to become less dependent on oil. That means finding an alternative energy source, making vehicles more fuel efficient or a combination of the two.

As of right now the future looks bright because the Honorable President Barack Obama “strongly rejects drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge… by 2020 Obama hopes twenty percent of all United States energy will come from renewable sources” (Obama). If the nation continues to follow in this vision Obama has put forth, it could experience numerous benefits. Only time will tell if our country will take advantage of the opportunity at hand to start searching for alternatives now, or continue to milk oil until it is gone and start scrambling for energy sources then.


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