Some reactions to my latest column:
I gotta tell ya, if the coastal plain of ANWR is a church, it is one where the members of the congregation likely go just once in their lives. It is cold, desolate, marshy and at times swarming with mosquitos. And a directional drilling presence there in winter couldn't bother the wildlife if it tried. (wouldn't bother it in the summer, either). [From a former Alaskan.]
I think drilling in ANWR is a distraction because it does nothing to reduce our oil dependency. Attractive alternatives exist, and I think you are far too dismissive of these advances in energy technologies and efficiencies. I'm sure you are familiar with Amory Lovins and his lifelong work on energy technology and economics. He is consultant to many of the fortune 100 and the Pentagon on energy alternatives. His most recent book, "Winning the Oil Endgame," describes how we can stop importing oil within the next 20 years (or sooner) using existing technologies that are equally or less expensive than current practice. His analysis is rigorous and, aside from the engineering, focuses on how a few changes in government policy and regulation could spur earlier adoption of these technologies.
Did you perhaps happen to attend the Svend Auken lecture last Friday evening, March 18th at Meany Hall? The room was at nearly 100% occupancy to hear Mr. Auken, Danisih minister of Energy and Environment, talk about how Denmark went from being 98% dependent upon foreign oil/energy in 1975 to being an exporter of energy today. That is a big change in just 30 years!
You are right that no one thing will solve our energy problems, but drilling in Alaska still seems a short term proposition to me--and one that only delays the development of energy policies and programs that Denmark has been so successful at.
More important to the energy problem is to reverse the insane chase after horsepower in the automobiles sold in America. Additionally, a lot of the heavy duty trucks pounding the interstate highway system to pieces should be on railway trains (TOFC Trailer on Flat Car) thus reducing the fuel burn of these dangerous monsters that do not pay their share in taxes for the damage they do to the highways.
If you have never seen what oil drilling does to the land, sea life,animals, people who live or have lived on those lands, parts of Texas is a really good example. You will not see it in the big cities, but in the oil fields themselves. The land is fenced off and signs that say "Keep Off!" The oil platforms in the Gulf of Mexico, oil spills have caused a great deal of problems. [From a former Texan.]
Drilling for oil in the refuge is one more step on our path to global warming, and I don't think you can deny that. The pandora's box we're opening with each new oil well could very well destroy the world as we know it. The Times recently published a letter to the editor from a UW paleontologist (or perhaps geologist -- can't remember for sure) who mentioned that historical atmospheric CO2 levels are well recorded within our geologic record. Not all that long ago, palm trees grew in Washington (my wife and I picked up some small palm fossils just a couple weeks ago, in fact), as a result of extensive volcanic activity which produced increased CO2 concentrations. We're currently on track to equal those historical concentrations in the next 50 years. The only thing holding us back is the thermal inertia of the oceans before we change the world forever as a result of our addiction to fossil fuels.
Next time someone proposes setting up a "wind farm" covering hundreds or thousands of acres in a "pristine" environment, ask them how this differs in substance from what is proposed for ANWR.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture released its study of the energy efficiency of ethanol production. The report, "The Energy Balance of Corn Ethanol: An Update," concludes that ethanol production yields 34% more energy than is used in growing and harvesting grain and distilling it into ethanol. The report can be accessed on USDA's web site at www.usda.gov/oce/oepnu/aer-813.pdf.