Urging Drilling in ANWR is no Solution for Energy Independence

The South Bend Tribune reported on Thursday a group called the “Notre Dame College Republicans” presented U.S. Representative Joe Donnelly’s staff with a petition urging Donnelly to authorize exploration for oil in the Arctic National Wildlife Reserve.   Edward Yapp, pictured in the article and identified as a member of the ND College Republicans, complained it costs him $50 to tank up his Volvo sedan and “want(s) to focus on ANWR and domestic drilling.”  Proponents of drilling think doing so would help lower the cost of gasoline but in reality, the amount of oil that could be extracted economically from this last bit of pristine wilderness would, according to the US Geological Survey, amount to what Americans burn in a year.  Some agencies estimate the recoverable amount to be even less.    Furthermore, the earliest any oil would reach Mr. Yapp’s Volvo would be ten years, assuming the oil extracted from the widely spaced puddles, would, in fact, be directed to American fuel tanks. 


Are We Just Pawns of the Mining Industrialists?

The Natural Resources Defense Council notes that using the promise of “energy independence” in the light of high fuel prices is a smokescreen for a larger agenda to open other areas of U.S. wilderness for energy, timber and mineral exploitation.  So while I’m very sorry that people like Mr. Yapp reports having difficulty paying the fuel prices set by a small group controlling this resource, his group’s efforts seem more an attempt to exploit cash-strapped drivers and break our resolve to protect our natural heritage.


There are more Sustainable Solutions

Contrary to what the oil industry would like us to believe, we are not going to be able to drill our way to energy independence.  Only by reducing our demand for oil, both foreign and domestic, and investing in cleaner, renewable sources of energy, will this country achieve energy independence.

In South Bend we have running through us the renewable energy of our river, which provided the power to grow South Bend from a fur-trading post to a self-sustaining city producing all the goods its people needed.  Today, city officials have resurrected design plans for a 1.5 Megawatt hydroelectric generator for the East Race of the St Joe River.  The energy from this generator could be used to power South Bend’s Water Works and the Water Treatment facilities.  Additionally, the design plans include a wheel-chair accessible below water level viewing chamber to allow visitors to watch the generator’s turbines on one side and fish migrating up the fish ladder on the other.  This project will reduce South Bend’s need for coal-burning electricity, reducing the city’s “carbon footprint” and bring visitors to our beautiful river. 


Helping South Bend and other Cities Become Energy Independent

Projects like this take capital, however, and I ask Mr. Yapp, his Notre Dame Republicans and anyone else to urge Notre Dame to consider adding “green energy” to their portfolio by helping South Bend to fund this venture.  Notre Dame, which has its own coal-fired generator and which uses South Bend’s water treatment plant (and quite heavily on certain weekends in the Fall), would be an excellent candidate as a partner in syndicated capital for a hydroelectric generator.

Furthermore, rather than urging Mr. Donnelly to fold to the will of industry giants wanting to exploit the last of our wilderness,  Mr. Donnelly needs to prod Congress to fully fund the Energy Efficiency and Block Grant Program signed by President Bush last December.  These grants must be funded by Congress as they could be used to also help cities like South Bend invest in hydroelectric power and take us one giant step closer to true “energy independence.”