While there are good reasons ANWR should remain off limits, there are also good reasons to reconsider the nation's offshore oil deposits, where drilling and exploration have long been banned thanks to a 1982 congressional moratorium and a 1990 executive order by President George H.W. Bush. Off-limits coastal areas are estimated by the U.S. Department of the Interior to hold close to 19 billion barrels of recoverable oil, as well as substantial supplies of natural gas. By some estimates, the oil available is the equivalent of about a decade's worth of U.S. oil production -- not enough to end import dependence but enough to smooth the nation's transition to renewable fuels.
Much has changed since the 1982 moratorium. Though some environmental advocates dispute this, drilling technology has advanced over the past quarter-century. Oil companies can drill more efficiently in deeper water with significantly less risk to the environment...exploring these coastal areas could have an immediate impact at the pump. Just the possibility that domestic oil supplies are expanding likely would deter speculators, sending prices down.
As a nation, we must push forward to a future in which clean, renewable energy fuels cars and heats homes. But there's a long way to go. In the meantime, breaking the backs of consumers and industry still dependent on fossil fuels is unacceptable. Relief is needed.
I enjoy biking, camping, hiking, and canoeing, and I believe that we are called to be good stewards of the earth. The marketplace will greatly reward the entrepreneurs who bring alternative energy products to market. It will happen, but in the meantime, our economy will be crippled if we fail to make use of the rich resources that lie right now beneath our feet. And that would be a bad thing for the whole earth.