New Legislation Could Curb Dependence on Foreign Oil, Ease Future Gas Crunches

The recent spike in gas prices has once again focused attention on America’s dependence on overseas sources of oil, particularly from OPEC.

While gasoline surges towards $2.00 per gallon, production of oil in the United States has plummeted, falling 17 percent since 1992. The number of working oil rigs has dropped from 532 to 133 over the past decade.

Common sense tells us that if we have the capability, we should produce more oil here at home. Sen. Frank Murkowski (R-AK) has introduced legislation (S. 2214) that is an important step in enhancing America’s energy security.

The Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR) is a remote 19-million acre area in the northeast corner of Alaska above the arctic circle. Of these 19 million acres, 9.5 are designated as a wildlife area with strict prohibitions against development. Eight million acres are a wilderness area with even stricter limits. The remaining 1.5 million acres, according to the US Geological Survey (USGS), could contain as much as 16 billion barrels of oil — enough oil to replace all Saudi Arabian imports for 30 years.

Some politicians, however, refuse to allow us to use this resource.

Vice President Al Gore and some members of Congress are threatening to block oil production in this small portion of the ANWR. President Clinton has also sworn to veto any move to open the area up for exploration. Despite arguments from the Vice President and extreme special interests, production of oil in ANWR can be accomplished without harming the environment, disrupting wildlife or damaging this cherished ecosystem.

Oil from ANWR may not reach US markets for several years — this makes it all the more imperative to open up the area to production now, before our dependence on foreign oil becomes even greater. If President Clinton, Vice President Gore and his allies get their way, Americans may see more frequent and dramatic surges in gas prices in years to come.