ANWR, and GM against the world

The US Arctic National Wildlife Refuge has been advocated for oil drilling for some time, and particularly promoted by the Bush administration. It now looks like the administration will finally have its way

The measure was introduced in a senate budget resolution, which may seem odd, except that the administration hopes to generate billions of dollars in revenue by leasing ANWR land for drilling rights. There seems to be some legitimate skepticism about those budget projections - to obtain the proposed revenue would require leasing every single acre of the refuge at prices up to 100 times more than the average recent lease sale price in other parts of Alaska. The idea that oil companies might actually pay those prices rests on the speculations about the large magnitude of the oil fields available, about which there is also considerable skepticism.

Even aside from the budget and environmental concerns, does the refuge actually represent a significant energy source for the nation, and the world? USGS estimates seem to have been gradually increasing for reasons that are not entirely clear (since there have been no recent surveys in the refuge); the size of recoverable resources is usually stated as between 5 and 10 billion barrels.

From our energy units page 1 quad of thermal energy is equivalent to 172 million barrels of oil, so 5-10 billion barrels represents 30-60 quads of energy. It's certainly a large quantity, but we use 100 quads/year just in the US and 400 quads/year world-wide, so ANWR represents just 1-2 months of world energy use, at current rates - and world energy use is rising 2-3%/year. Plenty of other people have come to the same conclusion - whether or not we exploit ANWR, it'll make very little difference to the global world energy question.

Meanwhile, General Motors announced a significant loss of almost a billion dollars for the quarter; GM's debts of about $300 billion (mostly from its finance arm, GMAC) threaten to downgrade its bonds to junk status, and its market share is down to just 25%.

With all that bad news, you'd think GM would try to show it's moving forward with the times, with hybrid vehicles all the rage. Instead it appears to be intent on destroying all its remaining EV-1 electric vehicles, ostensibly for safety reasons. Can anybody explain why it didn't take the approach of some Japanese automakers, incrementally improving a functional vehicle that could have made a huge difference in our dependence on oil? No wonder Toyota is on a path to take over as world's largest automaker.

Created: 2005-03-18 14:50:14 by Arthur Smith
Modified: 2005-03-18 16:31:55 by Arthur Smith