Oil is not going anywhere. It’s in the jeans you’re wearing, the phone you’re holding, and the chair you’re sitting in. Even if it were possible to eliminate oil usage, this implies the discovery of other equally capable resources. The old adage “If it can’t be grown, it must be mined” comes to mind.
Further complicating things is the fact that reducing demand for oil in one area does not necessarily translate to fewer barrels of oil. This is because a barrel of oil is divided into “cuts” – different types of oil that are only suitable for certain uses. Limiting demand for gasoline does not reduce demand for jet fuel or plastics.
We can, and should, support renewables where appropriate. The Alaskan subcontinent has more renewable energy potential than any place in the world – potential that I am working hard to capitalize on. However, renewables are not appropriate for Boeing’s jetliners. They cannot replace the vast quantities of fossil fuels needed to pave our roads, build solar cells and electric cars, or construct hydroelectric dams.
For these uses and many more, oil will remain a part of our future. If we care about the environment, the conversation around hydrocarbons must be rooted in improving our extraction techniques as opposed to fantasies of an oil-free future.
The reason is simple: If America abandons oil production, the environment will suffer. Compare oil production in Alaska to dirty oil producers in places like Venezuela, Russia, and the Middle East. Here in Alaska, we do not flare our gas – a byproduct of oil extraction; instead, we pump it back into the ground. Our ability to access oil horizontally is unmatched. One newer production site on the North Slope is accessing 50 square miles of subsurface resources from a single 165-acre facility.
Despite what environmental extremists would have you believe, carbon emissions are a global process. Cutting production in the U.S. only to see that demand met by dirtier producers elsewhere in the world results in more pollution and more environmental damage. Instead, we should be promoting cleaner production here at home.
Humanity will suffer if we continue to listen to the demands of extremist groups who profit from attacking resource development in the U.S. In addition to the environmental fallout, the jobs of some 10 million Americans would evaporate should politicians succeed in transferring 8% of our nation’s gross domestic product to dirty producers overseas.
But it is everyday Americans who would be hurt the most. The limited and expensive flights that many experience as they return home for the holidays are a small preview of life after domestic oil production ends. Americans can expect dramatic increases to the cost of shipping, electronics, clothing, furniture, and so much more should America be forced to again rely on foreign powers for oil.
We have the ability to protect our environment without causing undue suffering to our fellow Americans. By simultaneously supporting technological innovations, like the ones used in Alaska, and green energy projects, America can ensure a cleaner, more prosperous future for the generations that follow. But first, we must reject the science-fiction energy fantasies of politicians and find real-world solutions here on Planet Earth.