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Tuesday, April 19, 2005

ANWR oil could go to Asia

The Seattle Times checks in with a timely story today on the history and potential of Alaskan oil exports. We've discussed this here before, but Times reporter Warren Cornwall provides some good research.

In short, there's no legal guarantee at this point that if the Arctic Refuge is drilled for oil, that oil will stay in the U.S. Virtually all Alaskan oil now goes to U.S. refineries on the West Coast. But Cornwall reports that those refineries may have to be expanded to handle the additional oil that ANWR could generate. That seems unlikely, since oil companies might be unwilling to make that investment with global output on the decline.

The result could be that oil companies would want to market that oil elsewhere. The likely customer would be Asian countries, including China.

"It is possible if they were to find a lot of oil in ANWR — and once they start drilling there they may move outside that little area — that the oil couldn't go to any place in the United States," said energy analyst Philip Verleger.

It "could happen," adds Courtney Schikora Boone, a spokeswoman for Sen. Ted Stevens, R-Alaska. "But it would not be something we would push for because we consider domestic oil production in the United States to be a national-security issue. We believe our dependence on foreign oil makes us weaker in the world."

Nor did she say it is something they would forbid.

In 1995, Stevens led a successful effort to overturn a ban on exports from oil carried by the Trans-Alaska pipeline. This led to only modest foreign exports of U.S. crude, according to the Times article, totalling just under 100 million barrels over five years. At the time, Stevens called the ban on exports "unconstitutional and unjust."

Which gives you a pretty clear idea about where his thinking is at.

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