MSNBC's Contessa Brewer uncritically aired President Bush's assertion that the “United States has an opportunity to help increase the supply of oil on the market, therefore taking pressure off gasoline for our hardworking Americans, and that I've proposed to the Congress that they open up ANWR, and open up the continental shelf, and give this country a chance to help us through this difficult period.” However, federal researchers have found that any benefit from the oil exploration Bush suggests would not impact the U.S. oil supply for at least a decade.
Despite federal researchers' findings that challenge President Bush's claims, MSNBC Live anchor Contessa Brewer uncritically broadcast his assertion that drilling for oil in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR) and off the continental shelf would “tak[e] pressure off gasoline for our hardworking Americans.”
During the June 9 edition of MSNBC Live, discussing Bush's trip to the U.S.-European Union summit, Brewer said Bush “will push for help from our European partners on the oil front” and aired a video clip of Bush saying, “The United States has an opportunity to help increase the supply of oil on the market, therefore taking pressure off gasoline for our hard-working Americans, and that I've proposed to the Congress that they open up ANWR, and open up the continental shelf, and give this country a chance to help us through this difficult period.”
But Brewer did not note that researchers at the Department of Energy have concluded that the oil exploration Bush advocates would not yield any benefit for many years. In its May 2008 Analysis of Crude Oil Production in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, the Energy Department's Energy Information Administration (EIA) concluded that oil drilling in ANWR would not impact the U.S. oil supply for at least a decade: “The opening of the ANWR 1002 Area to oil and natural gas development is projected to increase domestic crude oil production starting in 2018 [emphasis added].” Moreover, in its Annual Energy Outlook for 2007, the EIA stated: “The projections in the [Outer Continental Shelf] OCS access case indicate that access to the Pacific, Atlantic, and eastern Gulf regions would not have a significant impact on domestic crude oil and natural gas production or prices before 2030. Leasing would begin no sooner than 2012, and production would not be expected to start before 2017.”
Indeed, in assessing the impact of hypothetical legislation that would allow drilling in ANWR, the EIA “assumes that enactment of the legislation in 2008 would result in first production from the ANWR area in 10 years.” The EIA stated, “The primary constraints to a rapid development of ANWR oil resources are the limited weather 'windows' for collecting seismic data and drilling wells (a 3-to-4 month winter window) and for ocean barging of heavy infrastructure equipment to the well site (a 2-to-3 month summer window).” The EIA continued:
The assumption that ANWR oil production would begin 10 years after legislation approves the Federal oil and natural gas leasing in the 1002 Area is based on the following 8-to-12 year timeline:
- 2 to 3 years to obtain leases, including the development of a U.S. Bureau of Land Management (BLM) leasing program, which includes approval of an Environmental Impact Statement, the collection and analysis of seismic data, and the auction and award of leases.
- 2 to 3 years to drill a single exploratory well. Exploratory wells are slower to drill because geophysical data are collected during drilling, e.g., rock cores and well logs. Typically, Alaska North Slope exploration wells take two full winter seasons to reach the desired depth.
- 1 to 2 years to develop a production development plan and obtain BLM approval for that plan, if a commercial oil reservoir is discovered. Considerably more time could be required if the discovered oil reservoir is very deep, is filled with heavy oil, or is highly faulted. The petroleum company might have to collect more seismic data or drill delineation wells to confirm that the deposit is commercial.
- 3 to 4 years to construct the feeder pipelines; to fabricate oil separation and treatment plants, and transport them up from the lower-48 States to the North Slope by ocean barge; construct drilling pads; drill to depth; and complete the wells.
The 10-year timeline for developing ANWR petroleum resources assumes that there is no protracted legal battle in approving the BLM's draft Environmental Impact Statement, the BLM's approval to collect seismic data, or the BLM's approval of a specific lease-development proposal.
Further, in assessing the likely impact of drilling in the Outer Continental Shelf area, the EIA stated that “despite the increase in production from previously restricted areas after 2012, total natural gas production from the lower 48 OCS is projected generally to decline after 2020.” The EIA continued: “Although a significant volume of undiscovered, technically recoverable oil and natural gas resources is added in the OCS access case, conversion of those resources to production would require both time and money. In addition, the average field size in the Pacific and Atlantic regions tends to be smaller than the average in the Gulf of Mexico, implying that a significant portion of the additional resource would not be economically attractive to develop at the reference case prices.”
From the noon ET hour of the June 9 edition of MSNBC Live:
CONTESSA BREWER: President Bush is heading to Europe today for what will likely be his last visit there, at least while he's in office. The president will attend his final U.S.-European Union summit. He'll push for help from our European partners on the oil front.
BUSH [video clip]: The United States has an opportunity to help increase the supply of oil on the market, therefore taking pressure off gasoline for our hardworking Americans, and that I've proposed to the Congress that they open up ANWR, and open up the continental shelf, and give this country a chance to help us through this difficult period.
BREWER: The president will visit Slovenia, Germany, Italy, France, England, and Northern Ireland on his eight-day trip.