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• The Alaska National Petroleum Reserve, a very large area west of Prudhoe Bay, may also have large new oil reserves. However, most of the area has not yet been leased by the Federal government's very slow plan, nor explored, nor litigated.
The amounts of natural gas are just as astounding as the quantities of oil. The U.S. Geological Survey estimated years ago that there were 150 trillion cubic feet of conventional gas, 590 trillion cubic feet of gas hydrates (an as-yet-unexploited form of methane trapped in water molecules underground). The U.S. Geological Survey estimated that to be "twice the amount of carbon to be found in all known fossil fuels on Earth." Also, there is an uncalculated amount of drillable coal-bed methane in an estimated 13.7 billion tons of indicated coal resources.
The state government of Alaska is now proposing a new pipeline to transport already discovered gas through Canada to connect with pipelines reaching the American Midwest and the east. It will cost around $30 billion, be underground, and transport quantities equal to some 6 percent to 8 percent of all current U.S. consumption.
Meanwhile, Washington has become paralyzed by dysfunctional government. France and China can build nuclear electric plants in just years; in the U.S. it takes a decade. Brazil will bring offshore oil online in 24 months, while for U.S. companies it takes 10 years. New refineries are virtually illegal to build. New electricity-generating plants using coal are now unable to obtain financing because of environment constraints.
This is destroying the value of the dollar and wrecking our balance of trade, making oil prohibitively expensive, and sending hundreds of billions of dollars to foreign lands—many of whom are no friends of America. No wonder 80 percent of Americans think their nation is on the wrong track. Washington needs to declare a national emergency program to produce energy. The reasons we don't are political, not technical. Indeed, new natural gas discoveries have knocked U.S. prices down by about 30 percent.
Jon Basil Utley is associate publisher of The American Conservative and a former foreign correspondent for Knight Ridder newspapers. He has decades of experience in the oil business, including as the owner and operator of a small oil drilling partnership.
Editor's Note: Due to editing errors, the original version of this story misidentified the location of Prudhoe Bay and misstated the average depth of oils wells in Prudhoe Bay and ANWR. Additionally, it mistakenly claimed that the federal government prohibits all offshore drilling; in fact, the government effectively prohibits offshore drilling in any new areas.