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Monday, April 04, 2005

Claimed drilling footprint 'laughably devious'

We've heard it ad nauseum already from politicians and ANWR drilling supporters: tapping refuge oil will only require a 2,000-acre footprint on the sensitive tundra, and new technologies will minimize the the impact of drilling.

Well, this excellent piece in Technology Review provides some worthwhile perspective. Author Bryant Urstadt reviews the claims and the technology, and finds that the alleged 2,000-acre impact is "the most laughably devious language" in any recent federal bill.

That's because it does not count the ground covered by all the pipelines that ANWR drilling will require, only the small footprint of each leg supporting the pipelines. That's like saying an SUV only covers 4 square feet of ground because you're only counting the tires' interface with the ground.

Urstadt goes on in reviewing a report by the Congressional Research Service on ANWR drilling, which he calls the industry's "best case" scenario. Yes, he finds, technology does exist to minimize drilling's impact, but it's unlikely to be employed because it costs oil companies more money and federal regulators won't require it.

"Industry is not a moral being but an economic creature responding only to economic stimuli," Urstadt writes. "As such, given the current balance of power in Washington, there is good reason to conclude that big oil probably could drill clean, but probably won't."

One need only look at fuel economy standards for proof of this theory. We all know technology exists to increase fuel economy in all American vehicles -- more than enough to stave off ANWR drilling and a good chunk of our oil imports, in fact. But manufacturers moan that it costs too much, and politicians swoon and never require it.

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