Should environmental concerns stop the U.S. from drilling for oil in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge? BusinessWeek reader Steve Venegas says no
Until I recently conducted an informal poll of my own, I did not realize how little John Q. Public knew about the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. It's no wonder environmentalists have been so effective at blocking the development of ANWR oil fields. With the help of our pandering politicians and biased media, they are planting seeds of propaganda. So with a pitchfork in one hand and a torch in the other, I set out to expose the green monster for myself.
My first step was to define "environmentalist." With just a few clicks of the mouse, I discovered popular terminology for three different shades of "green."
The dark greens are the radicals who think humans and human development should just go away. You can see them on the evening news burning down mansions, restaurants, and universities. They believe capitalism, industrialism, and consumerism are the root of all environmental problems,
Light greens are at the other end of the spectrum. Chief marketing officers love the fake and gullible light green environmentalists, because they will buy anything labeled "eco-friendly," no questions asked. In their minds, they are protecting the environment by purchasing mercury-filled, compact fluorescent lightbulbs.
Bright greens, as defined by futurist Alex Steffen in 2007, believe new and existing technologies and innovative designs can counteract the environmental evils of economic growth. Renewable energy, genetic engineering, biodegradable materials, and social engineering are all building blocks in a bright green world.
The bright green ideology knocked the pitchfork right out of my hand. Despite the fact that I spent seven years working in the oil, gas, and power industry—my mother's family has been drilling oil wells since the late 1800s, and my father emigrated from Mexico to work in the oil fields—I agree with most of the bright green ideas (although genetic engineering still gives me visions of a giant carnivorous daffodil).
With a bright green torch to light my way, I decided to identify the dark green fighting machine's weapon of choice: propaganda. The dark greens usually play the "what you don't know won't hurt me" game. Here are some examples of their convenient truths.
Convenient Truth: The photos of majestic mountains, forests, and beautiful meadows filled with flowers and wildlife are representative of the entire ANWR.
Inconvenient Truth: The photos are of the ANWR wilderness. The 2,000-acre proposed drilling site (a speck of the ANWR's 19 million total acres) is in the coastal plain, which is flat and frozen most of the year.
Convenient Truth: Oil spills will contaminate the ecosystem.
Inconvenient Truth: Oil-stained sands and oil seeps occur naturally in the ANWR coastal plain.
Convenient Truth: Drilling will harm the caribou and other wildlife.
Inconvenient Truth: Caribou and other wildlife are flourishing in the Prudhoe Bay area near ANWR. This same area has provided billions of barrels of oil over almost four decades.
Convenient Truth: ANWR is a pristine environment.
Inconvenient Truth: The ANWR wilderness is a pristine environment, but the coastal plain is not. It is home to U.S. military installations, roads, and villages. The proposed drilling site is about 65 miles from Prudhoe Bay.
Convenient Truth: ANWR must be saved for the enjoyment of future generations.
Inconvenient Truth: The dark green environmentalists do not want tourists to visit ANWR because they will pollute the pristine environment.
Convenient Truth: Drilling in ANWR will not reduce the price of gasoline, and most of the oil and gas will be sold to other countries.
Inconvenient Truth: Drilling in ANWR is about reducing our exports of cold hard cash. Our addiction to foreign oil has shifted money and power to nations like Saudi Arabia, Iran, and Venezuela.
I asked 30 random people, teachers, business owners, executives, housewives, oil field workers: "Do you think we should drill for oil in ANWR?" Some of the answers surprised me, because all of the participants are residents of the oil-rich Permian Basin area of West Texas. The vast majority said, "yes," as long as we protect the environment. Their comments spurred me to explain the three greens and ask what shade of green they considered themselves. Not surprisingly, bright green was their preferred shade.
The most interesting answer came from an independent oil producer. He is against drilling in ANWR. He considers himself a bright green with a dark side, because he believes population growth should be controlled. He also said that he's enjoying the high oil prices and that opening the refuge might contribute to lower prices within five years.
Representative Mike Conaway (R-Texas) favors the drilling: "Exploration will be done in an environmentally sensitive manner," Conaway recently wrote. "For example, the drilling will take place only in winter so that it will not disturb the caribou migration. Special ice roads will be used that melt after use so there's no impact on the tundra. And three-dimensional seismic and horizontal drilling technology will be used to achieve the smallest drilling footprint possible."
As a newly converted bright green environmentalist, I believe we can safely develop the oil fields in the ANWR coastal plain with existing technology and innovative designs. I also believe we can reduce our oil consumption through social engineering and alternative energy sources. For ANWR and the rest of the world, the future is bright green.