Peace through victory - the American way.

Wednesday, December 28, 2005

ANWR And The Tyranny Of Either-Or Thinking.

The San Diego Union-Tribune published a display of statistics regarding American oil usage. (Here.) The statistics are pretty interesting in their own right but a couple of them are interesting for political reasons.

There's an ongoing controversy over the amount of oil the United States uses every year. The issue is so controversial there is no consensus on what the dispute is about. Is it about reducing American dependence on foreign oil? Is it about producing more oil domestically? Is it about reducing pollution? Is it about conservation to delay depletion of the world's oil reserves? Is it an environmental issue or a national security issue?

The latest round in this controversy led to a defeat for the President's effort to open a tiny portion of the Arctic wasteland to oil production. The Union-Tribune published this statistic about the amount of oil that the wasteland would produce.
"At full production in 2020 or beyond, proposed drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR) is estimated to produce 800,000 barrels of oil daily, 0.7 percent of global production."
Put this way, the benefit of drilling in the wasteland seems insignificant. It's too bad this was the comparison they made because it's clearly designed to create the impression that ANWR drilling is not worthwhile. But a different number emerges if the wasteland's production is compared to America's daily production of oil.

According to the UT's display, we produce 7.5 million barrels of oil per day. Adding ANWR's production would increase daily production to 8.3 million barrels per day, an increase of 10.7 percent. Adding 10 percent to America's daily production of oil is a pretty substantial increase.

But how does the increased production from the Arctic wasteland compare to the amount of oil that would be saved from conservation?

According to the UT's display,
"Almost 300 million barrels of oil could be saved each year by raising U.S. auto-efficiency standards by 2.75 miles per gallon."
That sounds like an enormous savings, which is perhaps one reason why wasteland drilling opponents always tout increased gas mileage standards over drilling in ANWR. But a straight-up comparison shows that conservation and ANWR drilling are about equally beneficial. Arctic wasteland drilling's production of 800,000 barrels per day computes to 292 million barrels per year, which is "almost 300 million barrels of oil."

These numbers are why Mister Americano is in favor of drilling for oil in the Arctic wasteland and for improving gas mileage standards on American cars. Doing both would be a national security benefit to the United States by reducing our dependence on foreign oil by "almost" 600 million barrels per year. One of the problems of American politics today is that so many issues are stuck in the tyranny of either-or thinking. The left's position on oil is to promote conservation and thwart more production. The right's position is exactly opposite. The left views the issue as solely an environmental one. The right views it as either a free-market or a national security issue. A more sensible approach would be to think in terms of "both-and" rather than "either-or." The question of oil usage in America is an environmental issue, a marketplace issue, and a national security issue. A sensible policy would try to balance those issues by promoting conservation and production.

Is that too much to ask?

-tdr

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