Today’s electoral map: Obama: 332.8 EV ; McCain: 205.2 EV

Let’s talk about ANWR, which has become the latest Republican MacGuffin. They say that, if we approved drilling there, we could drive down the price of gas almost instantly.

Well, sorry to say, but once again the Republicans are lying to us. Let me tell you why.

ANWR stands for the Alaskan National Wildlife Refuge. What does that mean? Well, it means there’s nothing up there. There’s no infrastructure–no roads, no bridges, no electricity, no plumbing, no nothing; it’s barren tundra in the middle of nowhere in Alaska. Even if Congress passed a bill today authorizing drilling in ANWR, it would take years–the most conservative estimates say 5 years–before we could even start getting oil out of the ground.

Not only that, but it’ll take even more years for the oil companies in ANWR to reach peak drilling capacity., meaning that we’d have to wait anywhere from 5 to 10 years before the oil companies got any significant amount of oil out of ANWR.

But just how much oil is in ANWR, anyway? Well, according to conservatives like Jonah Goldberg, ANWR’s promise is 10 billion barrels. Sounds like a lot, right? Well, it turns out that the United States uses 20.73 million barrels a day. Do some math–10 billion divided by 20.73 million means that ANWR will give us enough oil to power the United States for 482 days, or 15 months. That’s right–ANWR only has enough oil to power the United States for a year and three months (and that’s assuming our oil consumption doesn’t increase between now and then.)

Not only that, but part of the problem is refining capacity–since 1985, the United States has only increased it’s refining capacity by 1.7 million barrels a day. In a country that uses 20.73 million barrels per day, that isn’t a lot of growth, especially when you consider that our oil consumption has increased exponentially since 1985. Remember, oil pulled up out of the ground is useless until it’s refined, and if we don’t have the capacity to refine more oil, it doesn’t matter how much drilling we approve.

Finally, there’s no guarantee any company drilling in ANWR will sell that oil to the United States. We can’t force them to sell us their oil unless we nationalize the Alaskan drilling operation. Short of such a drastic step, there’s always a chance another customer could come along and buy our ANWR oil right out from under us.

Look, drilling in ANWR is a band-aid solution pushed by politicians hoping to get big fat checks from Big Oil sometime before November. With the time and money we’d waste getting 15 months of oil out of ANWR, we could invest in renewable energy that will free us from our dependence on foreign oil and all oil, period. Tired of paying huge prices at the pump? Then tell the politicians in Washington to invest your tax dollars in renewable energy, because in the time we’d waste getting the first drop of oil out of ANWR, we could, instead, make the pumps themselves a thing of the past.

UPDATED: The NRDC gives us this graph:

DDay at Hullabaloo has this to say:

With the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, you’re talking about dropping the price of a barrel of oil between $0.50 and $2 over a 30-year time horizon when the price has gone up $100 since the beginning of the Bush Presidency. It’s the same for drilling offshore.

And Environmentalist at Daily Kos brings us this:

Between 1999 and 2007, the number of drilling permits issued for development of public lands increased by more than 361%. And did you see your gasoline costs drop? How about your electricity costs? Propane? natural gas? Uh…no. There is absolutely no correlation between the industrialization of public lands and the price of fossil fuels.

[Emphases Added]

UPDATE II: I used Goldberg’s estimation of how much oil was in ANWR because it was a gross overestimation; people who actually know what they’re talking about have found that there’s far less oil in ANWR than 10 billion barrels:

In all three ANWR resource cases, ANWR crude oil production begins in 2018 and grows during most of the projection period before production begins to decline. In the mean oil resource case, ANWR oil production peaks at 780,000 barrels per day in 2027. The low- resource-case production peaks at 510,000 barrels per day in 2028, while the high- resource-case production peaks at 1,450,000 barrels per day in 2028. Cumulative oil production resulting from the opening of ANWR from 2018 through 2030 amounts to 2.6 billion barrels in the mean resource case, 1.9 billion barrels in the low resource case, and 4.3 billion barrels in the high resource case.

I gave conservatives the benefit of the doubt in terms of how much oil is in ANWR for the purpose of my calculations, but keep in mind that the actual amount of oil there isn’t anywhere near their gross overestimations.