Not a great deal of new news in Wednesday's congressional hearing on the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR). Energy development supporters pointed to ANWR's potential - between 6 billion and 16 billion barrels of oil. Opponents expressed environmental concerns and said ANWR oil wouldn't provide short-term economic or energy relief. Been there, heard that, right?
Then there was the statement of Fenton Okomailak Rexford, tribal administrator for the native village of Kaktovik, Alaska, and a member of the Kaktovik City Council. His chief credential: He lives on the Alaskan Coastal Plain, near where ANWR development would occur. Rexford:
"I am a life-long resident of Kaktovik, and I intend to grow old there. I can compare what life in Kaktovik was like prior to oil development on the North Slope to the quality of life we have today because of my personal experience. I have spent time listening to the people of Kaktovik and to the residents across the North Slope and the vast majority of us support responsible development of the Coastal Plain of ANWR. ... I am very familiar with this issue and have been fighting the misrepresentations of the opposition for over 15 years. Therefore, I speak with the institutional knowledge my people, the Iñupiat people of the North Slope, the people who live in the Coastal Plain, have about ANWR."
Rexford's main point: He and others in Kaktovik wouldn't support energy development of the Coastal Plain if they didn't believe it could be done safely, responsibly. Development would enable the entire North Slope region continued access to "essential services taken for granted by people from the Lower 48," he said.
Pretty powerful stuff. So is this: ANWR's energy potential is key to an energy future in which the United States could see 100 percent of its liquid fuel needs met domestically and through partnership with Canada by 2026. That's why the debate over ANWR never grows old.
Look at the following charts, which compare the forecast of the Energy Information Administration (in gray) with the energy potentials outlined in the recent Wood Mackenzie study (in green). A big chunk of the difference between EIA's estimate on U.S. supply for 2026 and Wood Mackenzie's projection (9.42 million barrels per day vs. 15.26 mbd, a 28 percent difference) would come from Alaska, and a big part of that would come from ANWR.
It's a major element in a pro-energy development strategy that could increase jobs, produce more energy and generate more tax revenue for government. "Development of the Coastal Plain of ANWR is a win-win situation for the American people," Rexford said, "particularly for those of us who call this area home."