Senator Stevens Highlights Inconsistencies in Anti-Drilling Stance

Stevens and Inhofe Advocate Opening of ANWR Before the Senate

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Senator Ted Stevens (R-Alaska) late yesterday spoke on the Senate floor to counter recent arguments made by Congressmen who oppose increasing domestic energy production. During the speech he was joined by Senator James Inhofe (R-Okla.), who is also an advocate of opening the Arctic Coastal plane for oil development.
 
The following is the Senators’ floor debate, as delivered:
 
Senator Stevens: Madam President, this morning when I read the Wall Street Journal, I was interested in this article: Energy Watchdog Warns of Oil Production Crunch. This is the IEA, the International Energy Agency, that makes estimates and keeps the world informed on the status of energy supplies. The conclusion in this article is that the demand for energy throughout the world continues to rise, but the supply is flat, it’s gone to plain.
 
I think there is no question that this is a problem this country faces, the problem of supply. Too often people in the Senate are unwilling to talk about the problem of supply. As a matter of fact, in 1995, President Clinton vetoed a bill that would have opened a very small portion, about 2,000 acres, of the ANWR coastal plain, which is a million and a half acres set aside for oil exploration. It would have opened it to oil and gas development. That was shortsighted, a mistake, and it has had a devastating effect on Americans.
 
As this article in the Wall Street Journal points out, it predicts global demand for oil of 116 million barrels per day by 2030. Today the world's demand is only 87 million barrels a day, and we are paying $135 for each of those barrels. As the demand continues to rise--and we know it will--so will the cost. It will become higher and higher. This is what I have been trying to say now for 20 years on the Senate floor. We should be able to produce more of America's oil, and we import today 67 percent of our oil.
 
During the oil embargo in the 1970s, we imported about 34 percent. We are almost totally dependent now on oil from offshore. American oil is not available to this country. The alarming fact is, the military is the largest consumer of oil in the country. It uses about 4.8 billion gallons of oil per year. The problem really is, if we had an embargo today, we could not sustain our military, let alone our essential infrastructure. Our economy could not survive another embargo.
 
We need to realize we can produce American energy to meet our needs. If we produce it over a period of years, the price will be stabilized. The interesting thing is, on May 1--right here on the Senate floor--the senior Senator from New York called drilling in the Arctic Plain `plain wrong.' He said it was an `old saw.' He said the field's probable 1 million barrels a day would reduce gas prices `only a penny a gallon.'
 
Then, on May 11, the Senator from New York, Mr. Schumer, said:
 
“There is one way to get the price of oil down and it's two words--Saudi Arabia. If they were to increase by 800,000 barrels per day, the price would come down probably 35 to 50 cents a gallon. That's a lot.” 
 
Now, why would 800,000 barrels of Saudi oil reduce gas prices 50 cents a gallon and 1 million barrels of American-produced oil from our State reduce the price at the pump only a penny?
 
As a matter of fact, the Senator from New York said this extra supply from Saudi Arabia would probably reduce the price of a gallon of gas by 62 cents before it was all over.
 
Imagine that: 800,000 barrels of oil from Saudi could bring down the price of a gallon of gasoline by 62 cents. There is an absolute inconsistency with what the Senator from New York has told the Senate. I find that appalling on a thing such as the oil supply now, in view of the price of gasoline for Americans at the pump. They are paying the price because of President Clinton. They are paying the price because of stubborn opposition to develop the resources of my State.
 
Now, they tell us that drilling in the arctic could harm the Arctic Wildlife Refuge. It will not. As a matter of fact, the land we are going to develop was set aside in the act of 1980, a million and a half acres in the Arctic Plain, so it could be explored. It will not be part of the Arctic Wildlife Refuge until the exploration and development of that area is over.
 
I think there is no question we have to find a way to have the Members of this body make up their minds: What is the problem America faces today? It is supply. Our demand is increasing, like the rest of the world, but we do not have an American supply of oil. Off our shores, and in the deep water off of Alaska, there is a bountiful supply of oil. We have two-thirds of the Continental Shelf of the United States, and there is only one well on that two-thirds of the Continental Shelf.
 
If you just look over to the other side of the Bering Straits in Russia--Russia, which was a net importer of oil just 20 years ago, now is a net exporter of oil. Why? Because they developed the Arctic and the OCS off their shores. They now have a strong economy in Russia. Why? Because they do not export petrodollars anymore. They use money in their own country to finance development in their own country.
 
We have to make up our minds whether we are going to face blind opposition, incorrect, and uninformed opposition, or whether we are going to take the actions needed to develop American oil to meet American demand, and whether we are going to use the deep water off our shores to produce oil as does the rest of the world.
 
Norway produces oil off their shores. Britain produces oil off their shores. As a matter of fact, we produce oil off our southern shore, but we are prevented from producing oil off our northern shore. It is absolutely inconsistent and irrational what we are facing.
 
Our pipeline, at its peak, was transporting 2.1 million barrels of oil a day to the west coast of the United States. Today, it is producing about 700,000 barrels a day. It is two-thirds empty, in effect. It would not need a new pipeline to carry the oil that would be produced in ANWR. It is there. It could carry more than 1 million barrels a day, easily. Yet it has been opposed. It has been opposed for over 20 years, by the same irrational people who come to the floor and say: Oh, oh, Saudi Arabia, produce more oil. Produce 800,000 barrels of oil a day, and we can probably expect gas prices at the pump to come down 62 cents. But if you bring 1 million barrels of oil down from Alaska, it is only going to affect by a penny.
 
I have to tell you, we have to have smarter energy solutions. I hope the time will come when we have a rational debate on this floor. I am reminded of that rational debate when we finally approved the legislation that brought about the construction of the Alaska oil pipeline in the 1970s. We waited 4 years for that pipeline to start because of stubborn opposition from the extreme environmentalists. It was finally overcome. That opposition was overcome by an act that was started right here on the floor of the Senate, which closed the courts of the United States to any further litigation over building that pipeline.
 
We were just following the oil embargo. America realized we had to have more American oil. There was no filibuster on this floor. The vote was 49 to 49, and that tie was broken by the then-Vice President.
 
Now, what has happened? Why should every time we bring up ANWR we have a filibuster? Why can't we bring to the American continent the resources of the continent that happen to be in our State?
 
Senator Inhofe: Madam President, will the Senator yield for a question?
 
Senator Stevens: Madam President, I am happy to yield to my friend.
 
Senator Inhofe: Madam President, I say to the Senator, I do not want to disrupt your line of thinking because I agree so much with you. But every time I hear people talking about ANWR, and I hear people talking about stopping any drilling or exploration in ANWR, it occurs to me, here you are, the senior Senator from Alaska. You have been here for a long time, and I have gone with you up to the area in which you are talking about drilling. I have heard people compare that to a postage stamp in a football field or something like that. It is a tiny area up there.
 
The question I have is twofold. First of all, why is it that as near as I can determine, people who live there all want to explore and resolve this problem we have in this country by drilling and exploring in ANWR? Who are we down here to tell them up in Alaska what is best for them? That would be the No. 1 question.
 
Then, the second thing is, what I have observed, I say to the senior Senator from Alaska, who has been here longer than I have, is that every time this has come up--I came from the House to the Senate back in 1995--now, on October 27, 1995, we voted 52 to 47, right down party lines, to go ahead and start exploring in ANWR. All the Republicans supported it. All the Democrats opposed it. Then, again, on November 17, 1995, the same thing happened: We voted to explore, the Democrats voted against it.
 
Then, after all that work was done, the President--then-President Clinton--in December 6, 1995, vetoed the bills that had this authority we had given them to drill. Then the same thing--I could go on and on--but in 2005, the same thing happened. The Senate voted on an amendment to the budget resolution to strike the expansion of exploration in ANWR. It failed by a vote of 49 to 51, right down party lines.
 
I guess the second question I would ask the Senator is, why is making us self-sufficient a partisan issue? Why do the Democrats oppose it and the Republicans support it?
 
Senator Stevens:  I have to tell the Senator,  that is comparatively new in terms of my time in the Senate. When I first arrived here, there was bipartisan support for producing American oil. We had a coalition with Republicans and Democrats, and we worked with the administration, whether it was Republican or Democrat, to find a way to bring more oil on line, oil produced by Americans and consumed by Americans.
 
When the opposition started on a political basis, we were then importing about 20 percent of our oil. As the opposition has continued, as I said, we now import 67 percent. That money, which would have been spent in this country producing millions of jobs, and putting people into permanent jobs, long-term jobs, is going to all these countries throughout the world because we do not have that investment. We have now what we call petrodollars, and we have to send our exports overseas to bring that money back.
 
This chart shows that 1 million barrels of imported oil cost the American economy 20,000 jobs, and we are importing 14 million barrels a day now.
 
So I tell the Senator, it is a recent phenomenon comparatively, and it is partisan. It started with President Clinton.
 
Senator Inhofe:  Well, Madam President, I will only respond to say that is my observation. I have not been here as long as the Senator has, but every year since I have been here, we have had this vote, and the people up there want us to drill, to explore, to produce.
 
I remember the argument against the Alaska pipeline. They said: Oh, it is going to destroy the caribou. What it has done, if you go up there, as I have been with you at any time during the summer months, the warm months, the only shade the caribou can find is the pipeline. You see them all out there. It has actually had the effect of increasing the breed.
 
But anyway, I keep thinking, if we had followed through with what we are talking about doing back in the middle 1990s, we would now be producing our own energy, producing our own oil, and we would not have these high prices at the pumps.
 
Senator Stevens: I thank the Senator very much. I will close on this statement.