Alaska Drilling? Yea or Nay? (Repost-5/7/08)

This is a Repost from back in May of 2008, but the question is still relevant to us right now…

I was watching Good Morning America this morning and they are doing a special called “Seven Wonders of America.” The first of these was the National Mall, and today’s was the Alaskan Wilderness. ABC.com says the following about this place…

“This is what is meant by undisturbed nature — some 19 million acres that make up the extraordinarily remote Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.
More PhotosLying wholly above the Arctic Circle in northeast Alaska, it is the nation’s largest and most northerly wildlife refuge, a special corner of the globe that promises unparalleled solitude, challenge and adventure.
Only about 1,200 to 1,500 people make the trek here every year. Unlike the vast majority of the country’s public lands, ANWR’s mission is to put the sanctity of wilderness ahead of the needs of visitors.
In this vast area approximately the size of South Carolina (keep in mind that Alaska is the largest state in the country, twice as large as Texas, the next largest state), there are no visitor centers, no campgrounds, no roads and no trails.”

The issue of the day has to do with the cost of gas. I hate paying 4 bucks a gallon. With that said, is it theologically sound to disrupt the Alaskan wilderness in order to save a couple of bucks? Should we, theologically speaking, drill for oil if the risk involves disrupting the uncorrupted beauty that God created? Does American wants for saving money equal a justification to become poor stewards of God’s world? You probably know my answer… but what do you think?

  • http://blog.emergingworshiper.org ken

    I think the reason we shouldn’t drill there is because we don’t have to. There is still plenty of oil in the middle east and elsewhere to supply us for a while. And hopefully we can fully realize the new green economy and reduce our dependence on oil before it runs out. Save Alaskan oil as a last resort. It will be more profitable that way anyway.

  • http://experiencethefire.blogspot.com Chris

    If we drilled there, it would make the land productive…make it even more wonderful. With minimally evasive drilling, the environment would be minimally effected. What’s the big deal? Colorado has roads and towns and it is still beautiful…and you can actually visit it and see it. The point is, development makes it more accessable to US citizens who PAY FOR IT. Who cares if there is a grizzly bear of caribou if noone ever gets to see it.

    Oi drilling would make that possible.

  • http://nailtothedoor.blogspot.com Dan Martin

    Should we, theologically speaking, drill for oil if the risk involves disrupting the uncorrupted beauty that God created?

    Honestly, what is the difference in this statement, whether the “uncorrupted beauty” is thousands of miles away, or right in our own back yard? I’m no drill-and-mine enthusiast, and I am troubled by the extent to which we seem to have confused having dominion over the earth with raping and pillaging it (a distinction we too-often miss vis-a-vis people too). However, if drilling for oil or mining for minerals are moral anywhere, what makes them less so in ANWR?

    The bigger question, to me, is how long we’re gonna take the shortcut of mined carbon, whether oil & gas in Alaska or coal in the Appalachians, as the principal source of our energy, and if not, how we’re going to deal with the energy deficit. Once we cop out and continue burning carbon, we’ve gotta get it from somewhere, and Alaska’s as good as (or maybe better than) my back yard.

  • Kurt Willems

    I like what ken said about making it a last resort. I strongly feel that if nature is basically incorrupted… Which is rare… Then we should allow natural habitats to flourish. This is where I strongly differ from Chris and slightly from Dan. I do think that there is a difference between Alaska and San jose… Or Visalia… Alaska is an ecosystem that is exactly as it should be without the corruption of human powers and we should cherish the rarity of that. Ultimatly we need to move towards green energy!

    • http://nailtothedoor.blogspot.com Dan Martin

      Alaska is an ecosystem that is exactly as it should be without the corruption of human powers and we should cherish the rarity of that.

      Well, yeah, I understand what you mean (and don’t entirely disagree), but San Jose and Visalia were that way once, too. True, they were raped and pillaged a long time ago, but does that make the continued exploitation of them any more moral?

      And what of (for example) the Brazilian Amazon? Because Brazil is “behind” us in the wholesale depredation of its resources, are they condemned to forever remain “behind” in “development,” just because we started destroying our land first?

      What I’m getting at here is that the moral issues are deeper, and broader, than the question of what remains unspoiled now. I think the ANWR fight has in some ways been allowed — by both “sides” — to obscure deeper issues of economic justice, energy policy, and so on. It has become a proxy for a lot of unspoken baggage, and I think we need to look at those deeper issues with at least as much force as is being brought to bear on a tract of unspoiled but distant land that few will ever see. The result of a reasonable solution to those issues would, I believe, provide protection for ANWR and the Amazon, but without confusing the forest for the trees.

  • Kurt Willems

    Dan, I agree with ur wanting to be aware of the deeper issuses. In regard to morality, u are right in pointing out that corrupting and pillaging any of god’s earth is wrong… So in that sense we are in complete agreement.

  • http://www.facebook.com/giddyslick Ashley

    kurt, my friend! thanks for the post! miss you and lauren!
    good thoughts on oil drilling in Alaska… i am all about protecting God’s creation, but at the same time, God did give us this planet to use. I do think that sometimes we go too far (ie. people shooting JUST to kill…) but if we need the resources, then by all means get it (ie. kill the animal and eat it and use it!).
    so yes, protect Alaska and get the oil in the Gulf of Mexico and off California… and only tap into Alaska if it is our LAST resort… =)
    Blessings and good thoughts friend!
    Ashley

  • Kurt Willems

    Ashley, thanks for your comments…

  • http://www.amazon.com/gp/cdp/member-reviews/A10ULJVWJGVUYD/ref=cm_cr_dp_auth_rev?ie=UTF8&sort%5Fby=MostRecentReview Paul Bruggink

    You can’t just “tap into Alaska.” It takes many years to develop a new oil reserve. We should have started ten years ago.

    If you didn’t like $4/gallon gasoline, propelling your vehicle on un-government-subsidized green energy is going to cost at least twice that. Green energy is never going to be more that a small fraction of our energy needs. And if the government subsidizes it, your grandchildren will be paying for the energy for that drive to church next Sunday morning. Unless the USA is willing to develop our own oil, gas, coal, oil shale and nuclear power resources, we will become the fiscal slaves of China and the Middle Eastern countries until the Second Coming.

    • Kurt Willems

      Sounds a bit gloomy Paul. I think creative solutions are coming soon! We eventually moved from horse & buggy to model T’s to prius ‘s didn’t we? Ha ha

  • Eric Helgesen

    Comment from the other side. I won’t say that my opinions isn’t biased, but I feel that I know a lot about the subject.

    Anybody here seen a drilling operation? I do every day. I know that there has been a lot of the “rape and pilliage” in the old days, but the technology has come a long way since the gushers seen in the movies. On offshore rigs off the coast of California, they have to watch and be sure that nothing gets over the side. If one tablespoon goes into the water, its a $10,000 fine for that operation. Trust me, they are very careful.

    In the last two years, I have seen the drilling rigs in my region go from 30% directional/lateral drilling to over 75%. On one pad, you can drill over a mile in any direction you want to and you’re at least two miles under the surface. You greatly increase your production without leaving a larger footprint. The pad you’re drilling on takes up almost no space and besides your pump/wellhead left behind, nothing is really disturbed.

    When piping a highly viscous material, you need to heat it up or it won’t go anywhere. Much of the wildlife tend to keep close to the pipelines in the winter so that they can keep warm due to the heat coming off the lines. I don’t see that as messing up the eco system when global cooling is going to be making things a lot colder around here. (Solar flare activity is much greater than any kind of “man made global warming”.)

    There will never be enough windpower to sustain the USA. I studied both alternative energy production as well as oilfield equally in college… I wanted to give both of them a fair shake before I decided my route. If you put a wind turbine on every hill in America, you would reach 20% of the required power for America. You also reach problems with eyesores and the thousands of birds who run into the turbines on their migration paths. Even with the governmental subsidies, you pay off one turbine in approx. 16 years if it doesn’t break down and the wind is always blowing. The life of a turbine is 20 years. The minimum wind speed requred to generate power is 15-20mph and if you go over 36mph you have to tie it down (0 power production) so that your tower doesn’t fall over from the force generated. Then you run into power transmission issues because you have to run miles and miles of power lines to the rest of the country.

    I know that the Middle East is full of oil, but we can get off of our dependency on them. If we weren’t dependant on foreign oil, do you think that our last two presidents would have bowed down to the king of Saudi Arabia? Transportation can easily be switched over to natural gas… which the US is abundant in. In the meantime, we can produce from the resources that God put under our own feet.

    I’ve heard that there are some in Congress who think that lateral drilling is a fairy tale. Remember that these people are the ones running the country. Also remember those who get their information from NBC will never get the whole story on this subject (I know you used ABC, but they’re all together in this stuff). NBC is owned by General Electric. General Electric (who quietly accepted $40 billion in bailout funds) is one of the leaders in wind turbine manufacturing and technology.

    Back to Alaska… I wholeheartedly believe that it can be drilled cleanly and efficiently. I also believe that we may not have to if we can get onto natural gas as our primary transportation fuel. Imagine being able to fill up your car from home and not having to wait hours on end like charging a battery! If its wrong to drill, then where do you draw the line? Is it wrong to mine for metals to improve our lives?

    Yes, God created the earth and us for His glory. Does knowing how He’ll end things on this earth tell us anything on how we are to treat it? Well, due to the fact that we don’t know when He is returning, we should definitely keep the place habitable for future generations. By relying on countries run by pagan religions as opposed to harvesting the fruits ourselves, I believe we are doing a disservice to our posterity. The technology is there to make it clean and efficient, and we are still making more and more reserve discoveries. The increase of technology is also increasing the amount we can recover in each field.

    BTW, watch out for those prius hybrids. Hundreds of thousands were recently recalled.

  • http://groansfromwithin.com Kurt Willems

    Those who are “pro drilling”…. do you see my concern in light of the recent events of the spill? That is irresponsible in my opinion!

  • Richard Wendt

    Kurt,
    I do not believe that we can compare Gulf Coast drilling with drilling in Alaska. The problem with the well in the Gulf Coast is that the head is 5,000 ft below the surface which is well below any ability we have to work effectively. In Alaska the heads are within reach and can be better controlled. Also in the event that there is a fire or a spill it can be controlled effectively. As you know I am a great proponent of the environment and that we are called of God to protect and serve all of creation. I am also a proponent of responsible use of our resources.

    The Alaskan pipeline, in which there has never been a spill, has helped the Caribou herds to increase. Your post is a bit deceiving since where the drilling is going to be done is far inland away from the critters you show in the post. The Tundra where they are planning to drill cannot sustain life because of the harsh conditions.

    You also have to remember that petroleum products means more than just gasoline. Many products we use on a daily bases come from oil. Look at any packaging label and if it contains petroleum distillates it comes from oil. Many say that there is plenty of oil in the Middle East and that is true. But if drilling is such a rape of the landscape are we right in pushing it off onto other nations. And while many do not want to mention it this is a national security issue. I believe completely in developing cleaner and more environmentally friendly forms of energy but until then we need to have access to the forms we can use.

    I wonder what your response is to using nuclear energy as one form of energy.

    • Conrad

      Good post Richard!

  • http://nailtothedoor.blogspot.com Dan Martin

    With respect to both Kurt and Richard, I think it’s going to be real unfortunate if this incident only hardens the two “sides,” by which I mean the “drill baby drill” crowd and the “don’t drill anywhere, any time” crowd.

    For years, oil companies have responded to objectors that both offshore and onshore drilling (such as ANWR) are perfectly safe because they have developed the low-footprint technology that makes the spills of yore a thing of the past. If the current crisis demonstrates anything, it is that these claims were hubristic at best and disingenuous at worst. The “this is different, it’s a mile deep” argument doesn’t wash with me…if they can’t handle deep water they have no business drilling in deep water. But is it easier to contain and prevent spills on land than in the ocean? Certainly.

    I do hope that this crisis forces both the government and the oil companies to come to some sort of accommodation where accountability will be provided by someone who doesn’t make their money off the oil and so isn’t tempted to paper over problems they encounter.

    But quite frankly, our energy strategy requires a lot more introspection and coordination than we now are showing. Oil’s not our only problem. Far too much of our energy comes from coal–also a carbon energy source, and MUCH dirtier to extract, process, and consume than oil. Even our “alternative energy” strategy concentrates far too much on biofuels produced from crops grown for the purpose—biodiesel produced from waste food oil is saving trash, but biodiesel produced directly from crops is diverting food production and using a lot of carbon fuel to produce the “clean” carbon fuel. Same with ethanol (particularly corn ethanol) which is both inefficient to produce, and driven far more by the agribusiness lobby than sound energy or environmental policy. And never forget, burning biofuels is still getting your energy from oxidation of carbon—just now it’s carbon that’s only been solid for a few months instead of a few million years. Burning new carbon instead of fossilized carbon doesn’t strike me as much progress.

    This is why, though I may surprise Richard by saying so, I think we need to give nuclear more attention and development than we have, and get serious about waste reprocessing and storage/disposal issues. We also have to get more creative about renewables and about decentralizing the power grid in order to better use (or reduce our need for) the transmission grid (think solar panels on a million homes vs. a million-home centralized array–which needs more transmission capacity?). But it’s gonna take a serious will to consider the policy from a comprehensive system-wide strategy, and unfortunately there are some really huge players (oil, gas, and coal-producing states and ag states, as well as the companies themselves) that all have a vested interest in us NOT accomplishing true comprehensive reform.

    And every bit of what I just said remains true even if you don’t believe a word about global warming and CO2 emissions as a problem. . .


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