The People of America's Oil and Natural Gas Indusry

A Decade Later, Still Waiting on ANWR’s Oil

Mark Green

Mark Green
Posted February 22, 2012

Remember how opponents of greater access to U.S. oil and natural gas resources scoffed at the idea of developing reserves in remotest Alaska, saying the oil would take 10 years to come online and therefore wouldn’t help crude supplies in the Lower 48?

Guess what: We’re there. It’s 10 years later, and those reserves in Alaska are still waiting to be tapped – even as Washington enters another round of finger-pointing over energy.

Here’s an indisputable point: If access to an airport-sized swatch of the 19-million-acre Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR) had been granted a decade ago, a million barrels of oil per day could be part of America’s supply equation instead of an academic debating point. As the debate renews, National Review’s Jim Geraghty helps out with a list of some of the ANWR naysayers:

Sierra Magazine (Jan-Feb issue 2002): If drilling were approved today, it would be ten years before oil arrived in refineries.”

U.S. Sen. Maria Cantwell (April 17, 2002): “Oil extracted from the Wildlife Refuge would not reach refineries for seven to ten years and would never satisfy more than two percent of our nation’s oil demands at any one time.”

Vice President Al Gore (Sept. 30, 2000): “It would take years and years of development, which would cause decades of environmental damage, to reap just a few months of increased oil supply.”

President Obama (Feb. 28, 2006): “We could start drilling in ANWR today, and at its peak, which would be more than a decade from now, it would give us enough oil to take care of our transportation needs for about a month.”

Because of the time it takes to produce oil from federally-leased areas – up to a decade onshore and seven to 10 years offshore – it’s obvious that sound energy policy requires leadership and foresight. In the case of ANWR, sufficient vision was unfortunately lacking, and its valuable resources remain underground instead of helping to supply our energy needs.

Now, as the ANWR debate is virtually certain to renew, who’ll be the first to dismiss the reserves’ oil because it won’t be available for a decade or more …


Mark Green joined API after a career in newspaper journalism, including 16 years as national editorial writer for The Oklahoman in the paper’s Washington bureau. Mark also was a reporter, copy editor and sports editor. He earned his journalism degree from the University of Oklahoma and master’s in journalism and public affairs from American University. He and his wife Pamela live in Occoquan, Va., where they enjoy their four grandchildren.