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Murphy writes: "It's costly and impractical and goes against conservative conservation principles. Nor will it get the U.S. anywhere close to energy independence.

Polar bears near Kaktovik, Alaska. (photo: Jim Lo Scalzo/EPA)
Polar bears near Kaktovik, Alaska. (photo: Jim Lo Scalzo/EPA)

Don't Drill in Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. Facts Show It Makes No Sense.

By David Murphy, USA Today

20 December 17

It's costly and impractical and goes against conservative conservation principles. Nor will it get the U.S. anywhere close to energy independence.

dozen Republican members of the House took a stand last month against an egregious provision in the Senate tax bill that would open the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to development. 

Rep. Elise Stefanik, R-N.Y., showed particular leadership on this important issue. She has also written a bill affirming that the House is committed to “conservative environmental stewardship.”

It is crucial that our elected officials are held accountable for applying their principles to real policy positions.

Stefanik's bill doesn’t actually call for any policy changes — it simply says the House is obligated to “protect, conserve, and be good stewards of our environment, responsibly plan for all market factors, and base our policy decisions in science and quantifiable facts.” 

Drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge is a direct violation of these principles. ANWR is one of the largest intact ecosystems left on our planet and one of the most valuable pieces of our nation’s environment. It is home to the largest population of U.S. polar bears. This habitat is even more important now, as sea ice is diminishing and polar bears are increasingly forced on land. It is also home to the 200,000-strong Porcupine Caribou herd and the Gwich’in people who have survived by living on its lands and bounty for millennia. Nearly 200 species of birds migrate from the Arctic refuge to the lower 48 states and through our backyards.

Protecting this land is a policy decision that meets the “quantifiable facts” required by the Stefanik bill. Drilling in the Arctic refuge will most likely cost the U.S. taxpayers as it is currently written in the Senate's tax bill. To make Congress’ math work, companies must bid at least $2 billion just to lease the land — equivalent to roughly $1,300 per acre — and any amount below $2 billion will actually add to the deficit. 

The history of bidding in the North Slope is much lower than that $1,300 per acre level. In a recent analysis done for the Alaska Wilderness League, I calculated the average bid on the North Slope to be only $194 per acre — nearly seven times lower than the $1,300 per acre level. (Even that number is skewed high as it includes offshore acreage.) The average onshore per acre bid is a measly $34, almost 40 times lower than that needed to meet the current tax bill. 

It should be noted as well that shale oil companies in the lower 48 states can now break even with oil prices below $40 per barrel, while production in the Arctic required  between $60 and $70 per barrel. Not many oil companies will jump at these prices.

Recently, just west of the refuge, 900 tracts were offered for lease, and only seven received bids. ConocoPhillips’ bid price was $14.99 per acre, a far cry from $1,300 per acre.

The  “energy security” argument put forth most recently by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is unconvincing. Even if oil companies find oil in the Arctic refuge, it will increase U.S. oil reserves to a bit more than 3% of the global total. OPEC has 70%. There is no conceivable path to oil independence by producing oil domestically. 

There is one path to reducing OPEC’s influence over U.S. energy. I calculated in my report that the current 2017-2025 corporate average fuel economy standards will reduce oil consumption by roughly six times the amount of oil projected to be within the Arctic refuge. So doing nothing not only will have a larger positive impact on U.S. energy than opening the refuge, it will have the added bonus of not despoiling one of our last greatest wild places.

Stefanik and her colleagues are correct to focus on quantifiable facts, which has led them to denounce drilling for oil in the refuge. Now these members must tell House leaders they cannot support a final version of this bill that includes this terribly wrong-headed Senate provision. Their strong stand could be the only thing that will save the Arctic  refuge and would be a big first step in restoring conservation to conservativism. your social media marketing partner


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+6 # economagic 2017-12-21 07:41
In this country the term "conservatism" no longer has anything to do with the conservation of anything. It was redefined 20 years ago, in Newt Gingrich's "Contract On (sic) America," to mean "wanton destruction of society by radical right-wing vandals." I was heartened at the time when Scientific American Magazine (of all media) said publicly what many of us were already thinking.
+2 # ddd-rrr 2017-12-21 08:01
BUT, this article makes FAR TOO MUCH SENSE ever to be useful to the 'Bublicans!

Those who rely on "beliefs" and "theories", rather than on factual, logical, and ethical
considerations, are (unfortunately for us all) immune to truthful criticisms of
the worth and efficacy of the destructive things they propose to do.
+3 # ddd-rrr 2017-12-21 08:16
Who says "conservatives" seek to "conserve" anything of real value?!

They seek to "conserve" only power and wealth for themselves!

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