Let’s tap U.S. energy resources

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Think youíll like $4 per gallon gasoline? Gas is already selling around New York for $3.99, and it may be here, soon. Given the global political climate, $5 per gallon is not unlikely, according to John Hofmeister, former president of Shell Oil. We citizens of the U.S.A. are sending $400 to $500 billion yearly to countries such as Saudi Arabia and Venezuela to pay for our oil supplies. Hugo Chavez, Venezuelan president for life who hates everything American, probably gets a kick out of gullible Americans feeding money into his Citgo service stations.
North Carolina motorists also pay among the highest gas taxes, anywhere. Mandated by the previous General Assembly, we have a minimum per-gallon tax of 29.9 cents, which increases as gas prices increase. Currently, state tax is 32.5 cents with another increase scheduled soon. Add 18.4 cents-per-gallon federal tax (24 cents for diesel), and a 25 cent inspection fee: We pay 75.9 cents in tax (81.5 for diesel) for each gallon of fuel we pump into our vehicles.
Billions of barrels of U.S. oil lie underground waiting to be tapped. A ěbarrelî is 42 gallons of oil, which makes 19.5 gallons of gasoline (87 octane). A barrel of crude also makes nine gallons of fuel oil, four gallons of jet fuel, and 11 gallons of other products such as lubricants, kerosene, asphalt and petrochemical feed-stocks to make plastics. The total is more than 42 gallons because of ěrefinery gain,î whereby processing and chemical changes increase the volume.
ANWR (Arctic National Wildlife Reserve) in Alaska holds billions of barrels of oil. Thatís a lot of oil, and subsequently, a lot of gasoline. But the eco-fanatics treat it as sacred ground, not wanting any drilling anywhere, and they have enough weak-kneed congressmen in their pockets to prevent it. Not all of ANWR is filled with lush greenery. Only a portion resembles the typical north-woods. In the area where oil drilling could be done, the land is barren, a frozen tundra containing a few polar bears. Imagine ANWR as the size of a football field. Lay a standard letter-size envelope in one corner of the field. The envelope represents the area for drilling, which would create up to 50,000 jobs while protecting the bears.
Oil is a global market. The only way we Americans can eliminate Middle-Eastern crude from our oil and natural gas consumption would be to reduce imports dramatically ó by 30-50 percent. With our current rate of consumption, thatís not likely to happen. But given the uncertainty in the Middle-East today, particularly with Libya, itís long past time for Washington to act. U.S. crude oil at $16 to $20 per barrel is far better for the U.S. economy than $130 per barrel. And new oil exploration will create thousands of new jobs.
Billions of barrels of oil also lie buried off both the East and West coasts of the U.S. But Congresspersons such as the liberal Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-Fla) has vowed that no oil drilling will be done off the Florida coasts, where large deposits of oil have been reported. Incidentally, reports that China, with permission of the Cuban government, has been drilling 40 miles off the southern tip of Florida are a myth. China uses a large amount of petroleum products, but theyíre not coming out of the Florida straits.
One of the largest inland oil sources in the U.S. is available in the Bakken formation, which runs from Northern Montana through North Dakota and into Canada. An abundance of shale-oil deposits are available in Colorado as well as an enormous oil deposit 1,000 feet under the Rocky Mountains.
These are just a few of the domestic resources available. The reported amounts of oil deposits vary with different publications. But one thing is certain: The U.S. does have billions of barrels of sweet-crude oil just waiting to be refined, if Congress would get off dead-center and allow drilling to begin. We have been told repeatedly that it will take 10 years to recover oil from new sources. Just think where we would be today had we started eight years ago.
But President Obamaís answer to energy problems is to stick to ěgreen,î much of which has yet to prove commercially viable on larger scales. He proposes to ěinvestî a couple of billion tax dollars to install docking stations across the country for recharging electric cars. But why should this be a function of the Federal government ó any more than building gas stations? Hereís another entrepreneurial opportunity, like buying a fast-food franchise, instead of placing another burden on taxpayers. In 2010, sales in the auto industry hit 1,114,739 units with 28,592 hybrid cars sold and a forecast of 1.5 million hybrid cars sold by 2015.
And what does the Obama Administration propose to do to keep our dollars at home and maintain a cost-effective fuel supply for the 250 million traditional vehicles on the road today? Production of gas- and diesel-powered units is not slated to stop anytime soon. In fact bigger, better and more fuel-efficient vehicles are being touted by Detroit. Fossil fuels are the here and now, and theyíre going to be like that for at least another 50 or so years.
A good mission for individuals or organizations such as the Tea Party would be to send faxes, e-mails and snail-mail letters to members of Congress and their leaders, demanding action: Stop putting off drilling. New drilling techniques are safe and precise ó they have been compared to arthroscopic surgery ó making environmental concerns minimal.

Bill Ward is a writer who lives in Salisbury.