On Arctic Drilling Study, Rep. Fleming Wonders ‘What Was Your Point In Saying It Was Paid For By The Oil Industry?’

Our guest blogger is Emilie Surrusco, Communications Director, Alaska Wilderness League.

At yesterday’s House Natural Resources Committee hearing on drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, reality was nowhere to be found except for reality TV star “Big Daddy” from the hit show Ice Road Truckers who was called as a Republican witness. That didn’t stop Republicans from questioning the validity of data other than that from the oil industry that they had in front of them. Here’s the full exchange:

John Fleming (R-LA): This was paid for by you say the evil oil money…what was your point in saying it was paid for by the oil industry? I’m looking around here on the dais and I can’t find any of your data. Where is your data, sir? Gene Karpinski, president of the League of Conservation Voters: It’s at the Department of Labor, the EIA [Energy Information Administration], the USGS [U.S. Geological Survey], it’s all from government studies.

Fleming: I don’t see it here.


Other House Republicans, led by Rep. Doc Hastings (R-WA) and Rep. Don Young (R-AK), regurgitated the same talking points used 10, 20, and 30 years ago to push for drilling in our nation’s last great wilderness place.

Take this quote from a 1995 editorial in the San Francisco Chronicle:

The refuge, with its large herds of calving caribou and a range of other natural riches, is a particular target of Republican legislators hoping to tap it for $1.4 billion in deficit-reducing oil-lease revenues.

A review of the facts is necessary when debating drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge:

– Based on a recent study commissioned by the American Petroleum Institute, House Republicans claim that drilling in the Arctic Refuge would raise $150-$300 billion in revenues for federal coffers. In fact, any estimates of revenue generated from drilling in the Arctic Refuge are wildly speculative and hugely inflated because no one really knows how much oil is out there. – With 10 years between leasing and actual production, the money wouldn’t start flowing in time to do anything about our current problems. – The Alaska Statehood Act mandates that Alaskans get 90 percent of all revenues from drilling in the Arctic Refuge (the oil industry study based its numbers on a 50/50 federal/state split) so those wild revenue estimates continue to shrink. Factor in inflated tax rates, underestimated production costs, unrealistic oil prices, lease prices that are 25 times the current North Slope average and more — and those numbers become inconsequential, in terms of the $1.5 trillion we’re trying to shave from the national debt. – That oil industry study also claims that Arctic Refuge drilling would create 60,000 jobs in Alaska alone. Yet 16,468 jobs are currently attributed to the oil industry throughout the state of Alaska, and already 95 percent of Alaska’s North Slope is open to drilling. The numbers don’t add up.- The oil industry’s job growth projection is equally rosy outside the state of Alaska — an increase of 55,000 to 130,000 jobs from Arctic Refuge drilling by 2030. Yet the top five largest oil companies have cut their work force by 11,200 workers in the past five years — despite the fact that domestic oil production is at its highest level in the past seven years and those five companies are making record profits.

With no significant job or revenue growth, what does Arctic Refuge drilling do for America? It destroys a place that millions of us have fought to protect for the past 50 years while filling the pockets of those fantastically wealthy oil companies. Luckily, there is an alternative. House Natural Resources Committee Ranking Member Ed Markey (D-MA) called for cutting the $43 billion in taxpayer handouts to oil companies over the next 10 years, ending royalty-free drilling on public lands offshore in the Gulf of Mexico for another $9.5 billion over the next 10 years, and repealing the royalty giveaway to Gulf states for another $1.9 billion. As he said:

All told, over the next 10 years these Democratic ideas would reduce our deficit 20 times as much as opening up the Arctic Refuge to drilling. To put it in perspective, if these Democratic ideas were the height of the Empire State Building, the Republican plan to drill in the Refuge would occupy only the first five floors.