LA Times left unchallenged ANWR drilling supporters' misleading claim that refuge contains "10 billion barrels" of oil


A November 10 Los Angeles Times article reporting that Republican leaders in the House of Representatives had agreed to drop provisions allowing oil drilling in the Alaska National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR) from its package of spending cuts repeated, without challenge, the estimate by drilling supporters that "10 billion barrels of oil lie beneath the refuge's tundra." In fact, as Media Matters for America has documented (here and here), that 10-billion-barrel figure comes from a 1998 U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) assessment of the entire ANWR area -- but the ANWR proposal passed by the Senate and currently headed to conference committee negotiations with the House -- authorizes oil development and production only in the "Arctic National Wildlife Refuge 1002 Coastal Plain Area," which is smaller than the area USGS surveyed in making its assessment. The USGS found this smaller region's average likely amount of "technically recoverable" oil to be 7.7 billion barrels -- not 10 billion.

The USGS also assessed how much of the technically recoverable oil would be economically feasible to obtain from the "1002" area, given a certain price of oil. The current price of oil is $57.90 a barrel (approximately $46 in 1996 dollars). While the USGS did not continue its analysis beyond $40 a barrel (1996 dollars), if the trend shown until that point were to continue, an average of approximately 7 billion barrels of oil would be economically recoverable.

From the November 10 Los Angeles Times article headlined "House Drops Bid to Open Refuge, Coasts to Drilling":

Drilling supporters estimate that 10 billion barrels of oil lie beneath the refuge's tundra. The United States consumes about 20 million barrels of oil a day. Drilling opponents contend that opening the area to oil exploration would endanger wildlife and spoil a unique environment while doing little to bring down gasoline prices, because it would be years before any oil discovered could reach the marketplace.

Posted In
Environment & Science, Drilling, Energy
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