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Free Republic: Send our own message: Develop all oil reserves


Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad thoroughly condemned President Bush, the United States, Israel and everything Western during his speech before the U.N. General Assembly on Sept. 19.

Well, almost everything Western — the notable exceptions being Royal Dutch Shell, France’s Total and a number of other European oil companies that have pledged to continue to develop Iran’s vast oil and gas reserves.

This despite the fact that Ahmadinejad has thumbed his nose at the world by vowing to continue his quest for nuclear weapons, providing huge amounts of cash and arms to Hezbollah terrorists in Lebanon and Shi’ite militia in southern Iraq, and publicly threatening to wipe Israel off the face of the map.

In addition to these misdeeds, Ahmadinejad has made it clear that his major strategic goal is to control the oil flowing from the Persian Gulf and, thus, deny a vital supply of energy to Western nations hostile to Iran’s plans for Mideast domination.

The continuing dependence on the Persian Gulf for oil is becoming very costly in terms of dollars and blood. Unfortunately, for now, the United States and Europe have little choice about being involved in the region since a large fraction of the world’s easily accessible oil is found there.

The United States in particular must develop new sources of oil as a matter of national security — or remain captive to the Middle East oil stranglehold. The good news is that in the long term, America has a number of options for liquid fuels, including enormous reserves of shale oil in four Western states.

But development of those options, and recovery of shale oil in an environmentally sound manner, will take many years to ramp up to the vast quantities needed. It is important to get started now. And some good first steps have already been made.

In the short term many sources of oil under U.S. control can be brought into production quickly using conventional techniques. And while the amount of this oil is not large in terms of total consumption, it is enough to moderate prices during the time we need to depend on Persian Gulf oil.

A prime example is the discovery of a vast new petroleum reserve miles under the Gulf of Mexico about 270 miles southwest of New Orleans and the recent announcement that a consortium of U.S. oil companies is successfully extracting oil from it. That deep-water well reportedly is already producing 6,000 barrels of crude per day, drawing from a 300-mile-wide field estimated to contain up to 15 billion barrels — an amount equal to 50 percent increase in current U.S. reserves.

With environmental risks far less than in the past, the federal government should move swiftly to open other areas of the Gulf of Mexico to exploration and drilling.

The Arctic National Wildlife Refuge is another important source of domestic energy with extractable reserves projected to equal as much as 30 years of oil imports from Saudi Arabia. More important, it is oil that can be brought into production quickly using conventional technology.

With modern directional drilling techniques, oil can be extracted from as little as 2,000 of ANWR’s 19.5 million acres — a patch proportionately comparable to a postage stamp placed in the middle of a football field.

What’s more, all of the oil in the ANWR is contained within land originally set aside for possible future oil and gas production when the refuge was established. And using the latest extraction techniques, hazards to the environment would be virtually eliminated.

While the House of Representatives has passed several bills to open the Outer Continental Shelf and ANWR to oil and gas exploration and production, obstructionists in the Senate have managed to derail them. The recent intemperate words from Iran’s Mahmoud Ahmadinejad ought to serve as a clarion call for Congress to put partisan politics aside and finally remove the off-limits signs from America’s vast and vitally needed petroleum reserves.

Marsh, based in Chicago, served with the Argonne National Laboratory and was a consultant to the Department of Defense on strategic nuclear technology and policy during the Reagan, Bush and Clinton administrations. Readers may write to him at 5433 East View Park, Chicago, Ill. 60615. and its sister non-profit websites,,,,,, and are owned by John Donovan. There is also a Wikipedia feature.

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