As the 50th Anniversary of the creation of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR) approaches, I would like to take a moment to honor the importance its establishment and preservation has provided for our nation for nearly half a century. President Eisenhower deemed the land a refuge in 1960, representing the only conservation area that encompasses an entire Arctic ecosystem. After being expanded by Congress in 1980, its 19 million acres make it the largest national wildlife refuge in the country.
I visited ANWR in the late 90’s, camping with my son. I had the pleasure of appreciating its beauty firsthand. Home to millions of animals, ranging from migratory birds to caribou, wolves and polar bears, it is essential that we protect this unique living resource for future generations. Unfortunately, the refuge’s future is not a certainty, particularly its 1.5 million acre coastal plain which is being closely watched by the oil industry and elected officials eyeing one-time revenues that drilling could generate.
Boosting domestic oil production is not a realistic or successful long term energy strategy. Over the past five years, our nation has consumed at least 250 billion barrels more oil than it can produce even under the most optimistic drilling scenarios. By making available additional domestic oil by tapping into the reserve at ANWR, the gap between our consumption and domestic production would only be reduced by barely three percent. Furthermore, let us not forget what the recent catastrophic events from the Deepwater Horizon disaster in the gulf has confirmed, that further drilling has enormous economical and ecological risks.
The only realistic solution to closing the gap between domestic oil production and our overall energy consumption is through the aggressive pursuit of conservation, alternative technologies and cleaner renewable fuels. The federal government has made progress in this regard through the American Clean Energy and Security Act, which combined with the 2007 energy bill and the current administration’s plan to increase vehicle fuel efficiency standards, will cut the use of oil by more than five million barrels a day by 2030. Not only is that equivalent to one-fourth of our nation’s current total daily consumption, it will save consumers more than $135 billion in fuel costs.
The 50th anniversary of the Arctic Wildlife Refuge gives us an opportunity to honor the establishment of the largest wildlife conservation area in our nation while also promoting the need for further development and implementation of cleaner renewable fuels. This is a crucial moment in our nation’s history. Our efforts to stop climate change, the continued preservation of areas like ANWR and the pursuit of renewable energy fuels are essential toward promising a greener, more energy secure tomorrow for all Americans.
Rep. James Moran (D) is Virginia’s 8th Congressional District Representative in the U.S. House of Representatives.