Thursday, December 15, 2005

New Subject

I'll post more later about how badly this city got whacked, when I've looked around a bit more, but for now a change of subject. Today Stephen Green was noting with amusement that George Will was writing about amorous caribou (and by golly he was), but the real subject was drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, ANWR.

I read a post on some blog a few years ago, one that I cannot find, that made a fascinating statement about drilling in ANWR, one that comes to mind every time the subject comes up. The guy who wrote it said he had years of experience in the chemical industry as a plant manager, though not specifically the petroleum industry. I don't know if what he said was true, but I thought the small group of family and friends that are my devoted readership might know something.

Now, when people stage protests shouting, "No drilling in ANWR!!!", I suspect what they are visualizing is based on those old photos from Southern California in the 1920s, during the great petroleum boom; 100 foot derricks every 500 feet for mile after mile after mile. A truly hideous sight that ought to make anyone shudder.

But what this guy said was that, like most technology, drilling technology has made a few improvements since 1923; to wit, we're no longer restricted to going straight down. We can angle the wells out from a central location, maybe even changing direction as we drill. I don't remember the numbers he gave, but the impression in my mind is that of being able to access all the oil under hundreds of square miles of terrain from a facility the size of a suburban house.

If true, this naturally changes the whole tenor of the debate. It raises the possibility of getting the oil out and preserving the environment on the surface. (Which anyway is not as pristine as some would have us believe; see the George Will article.)

If true, this is a big point in favor of drilling, and supporters of drilling should be hammering this point home whenever possible. But they're not. If untrue, then opponents should be conjuring up images of all those derricks in the 20s to support their side. But they're not doing that either.

Anybody know anything?

1 comment:

Don said...

I think it ought to be opened up. Avoiding a resource purely out of principle is foolish. And it would be purely out of principle, because as you say, drilling as it's done these days really ain't all that invasive.

However I do fall slightly into the fascist environmentalist camp in that I wouldn't mind if access was metered simply to keep gasoline prices reasonable (i.e. $3 to $4 / gal) rather than to keep it cheap or oil profits up. I'd prefer it be exploited as a strategic reserve than just another profit center. This country needs to adapt away from its cheap petroleum-energy addiction.