Sen. John McCain plans to visit Colombia and Canada this summer, presumably to contrast his views on free trade with those of Sen. Barack Obama. He may also visit Iraq, in part to remind people Sen. Obama hasn't been there in more than two years.
Sen. McCain should add one more stop on his summer travel itinerary. He should visit the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, an area about the size of South Carolina in Alaska's far north.
Oil companies want to drill in a portion of ANWR roughly the size of Dulles airport, where the U.S. Geological Survey thinks there may be 10.4 billion barrels of recoverable oil, an amount equivalent to 37 percent of the current U.S. proved reserves of 21.7 billion barrels. But Sen. McCain says he'd no sooner drill in ANWR than in the Grand Canyon.
Parts of ANWR are beautiful. But not that small portion of the coastal plain where the oil companies want to drill. It's treeless tundra and bogs, mosquito infested in the short summer, frightfully cold (up to 70 degrees below zero) in the long winter. All of ANWR draws about 1,200 visitors a year. The Grand Canyon draws roughly ten times as many every day.
Sen. McCain seems to be unaware that uranium was mined in the "pristine" Grand Canyon from 1953 to 1969, quite near to where most of the tourists go. It hasn't seemed to have spoiled their view.
Sen. McCain supports Arizona Power's plan to build the world's largest solar electricity plant on 1,900 acres of desert near Gila Bend, Arizona. "What's the difference between 'despoiling' 2,000 acres of pristine desert with a giant farm of solar panels and 'despoiling' 2,000 acres of frozen tundra with a few drilling rigs?" asked a reader of National Review Online.
If we were drilling in ANWR, oil prices would be significantly lower. But there is plenty of oil closer to home. The USGS thinks there are 4.3 billion barrels of recoverable oil in the Bakken formation in North Dakota and Montana. There are another 86 billion barrels in the Outer Continental Shelf off our coasts. Altogether, there are more than 100 billion barrels of oil that only politics prevent us from developing. If these were counted, we would vault from 12th place to 4th among the world's nations in proved reserves.
Our potential reserves are much greater. There are an estimated 800 billion barrels of recoverable oil in the oil shale in the Green River Formation in Colorado, Utah and Wyoming. That's about as much oil as the proved reserves of the rest of the world combined.
That's not all. The United States is the Saudi Arabia of coal, with, according to the International Energy Agency, 27.1 percent of the world's coal reserves of one trillion tons. The Shenhua Group, a Chinese firm, will open this fall in Mongolia a plant that is expected to produce 50,000 barrels a day of low sulfur gasoline and diesel fuel by 2010. The Shenhua Group is using technology developed mostly in the U.S., but we have no comparable projects here, even though coal can be converted to oil for about $60 a barrel, according to the National Mining Association.
We're paying roughly twice as much as we ought to for gasoline, thanks to the restrictions imposed by politicians. Unsatisfied with driving up oil prices, they've driven up food prices, too, by heavily subsidizing and mandating the use of corn-based ethanol.
Mexico has increased its oil production 64 percent since 1980. Canada's production has increased 85 percent. If we'd increased production at the rate of our North American neighbors, we'd be producing 91 percent of our current consumption, noted National Review's Noel Sheppard.
"Legislatively enacted environmental barriers have actually resulted in a 25 percent decline in domestic production," Mr. Sheppard said.
A Gallup poll in May indicated 57 percent of Americans support drilling in ANWR and off our coasts. It's our political leaders who don't get it.
Sen. McCain is a "clueless, don't drill zombie," wrote Daniel Henninger of the Wall Street Journal. But at least Sen. McCain laments high energy prices, even if he's unwilling to do much about them. In an interview with CNBC June 10, Sen. Obama expressed regret not that energy prices have risen, only that they have risen so fast. "I would have preferred a gradual adjustment," he said. Sen. Obama's proposed "solution" is to raise taxes on oil companies, which would hike prices further.
Dumb and dumber. What a choice for November!