December 21, 2005

Laffey, ANWR, and the Link between Foreign Policy and Energy Policy

Marc Comtois

While none of us should be surprised about Senator Chafee's vote opposing ANWR drilling, some may be surprised to learn that Mayor Stephen Laffey-who ties energy policy and national security together in an op-ed in today's Providence Journal--also opposes ANWR drilling. Robert Bluey, editor of the conservative website Human Events Online, calls upon the National Republican Senatorial Committee to pull its support for Senator Chafee in light of his anti-ANWR stance (and got the predictable response that the NSRC thinks only Chafee can win in RI). But Bluey also reports:

Unfortunately for conservatives, Laffey also opposes drilling in ANWR. Laffey’s campaign manager, John Dodenhoff, said whereas Chafee caves to environmental activists, his candidate opposes drilling for national security reasons. Whatever the case may be, it means Chafee isn’t facing any home-state critics on ANWR, and therefore, probably sees no reason to support drilling. {Emphais added.}
In the earlier-referenced op-ed, Mayor Laffey stated that his... energy plan must be sold to the American public for what it is: a vital national-security program to help win the war for the free world. And the plan is not optional; it is imperative. Saudi Arabia, with a $26 billion surplus, will use some of that money against America. Iran is building a nuclear-power plant and talking about exterminating Israel -- our closest ally in the Mideast. The higher oil prices get, the more Russia moves away from democracy. And in Venezuela, Hugo Chavez's dictatorship grows more ominous with each up-tick in the price of oil. We must destroy the economic base of our enemies -- cash from oil -- if we are to win this war.

In a recent survey, 59 percent of the respondents gave "developing new energy technology and sources" as their top choice for reducing America's energy problem. The American public clearly gets it. So why does Washington sit on its hands while continuing to coddle big oil? This is a textbook example of government's being captive to special interests, rather than supportive of the best interests and stated desires of the American people.

The fact is that the Beltway and big oil have been in bed together for decades. It is now time to seriously re-evaluate the merits of this wasteful liaison, and move on to far healthier relationships. Our economy, our environment, and, most important, our national security hang in the balance.

Given Mayor Laffey's stance against "Big Oil," I suppose his opposition to ANWR drilling is understandable as he must believe that such an expansion of drilling would only encourage the "Big Oil" interests he finds so distasteful. However, by reading the Mayor's op-ed and his campaign's statement regarding ANWR together, I see an inconsistency in his policy of energy independence for the sake of national security. Apparently, his animosity towards "Big Oil" is clouding his judgement. While the Mayor's long-term vision to reduce oil dependence through R&D of alternative energy sources is admirable, it is not a mutually exclusive proposition to also promote domestic oil drilling. After all, both will alleviate foreign oil dependency.

Comments, although monitored, are not necessarily representative of the views Anchor Rising's contributors or approved by them. We reserve the right to delete or modify comments for any reason.

You raise an interesting point, because ANWR drilling would on the surface seem to be in synch with a stance of moving away from foreign oil dependence. Maybe it is a question of blessing short-term tactical stop-gaps (that may or may not have negative environmental implications)or standing firm on an overall strategic vision underpinned by freedom from oil dependence on an overall basis.

Sure, if past is prologue, we will find more oil in Alaska and more in the gulf of mexico. And the higher oil prices get, the more feasible it will be to capture these increasingly expensive sources. Unfortunately, oil that lies under sand will always be the cheapest to drill for. We are at a continual competitive disadvantage here vis-a-vis the Sheiks and Mullahs.

Our competitive advantage lies in our talent for innovation and entrepreneurship - which is not being exploited in renewable energy because of a 30-year stifling government record in this arena.

I think ANWR drilling is a tough call but would agree with Laffey that our efforts need to be firmly directed towards removing this oil dependence problem in its entirety. In short, ANWR is essentially a deflection from the real underlying issue.

Posted by: bountyhunter at December 21, 2005 5:49 PM

Drilling in ANWR wreduces our reliance on foreign oil. Period.

I do agree with Laffey's assertion that we must view oil dependency through a national security lens. I think many people are coming to that conclusion.

Laffey's stance against drilling in ANWR doesn't suprise me. He knows many Rhode Islanders care about the environment and he is once again straddling an issue to appeal to both sides. This would be a great issue for Laffey to demonstrate the backbone that he talks about and publicly support the Bush Administration's attempts to reduce our reliance on foreign oil.

Posted by: Anthony at December 21, 2005 7:00 PM

It is a fair critque on your part. I would only note that all the oil in ANWR would probably only satisfy our total oil needs for a few months. The US itself simply does not have enough oil to anymore to satisfy our domestic demand. If the US did have enough oil to satisfy its demand, I would say go for it, but our oil reserves are like 2% of the world's reserves but we consume 25% of the world's oil (take a look at Laffey's energy slides on his website). Increasing the domestic supply of oil should not be the focus but instead lowering our long term oil demand. In other words, ANWR is merely a stop gap. Also, a big oil pipeline in ANWR would be another place we would need security to protect us from a terrorist attack. Laffey is about long-term solutions, not stop-gap measures which please oil interests interested in making money from more drilling. Anyway, isn't kind of funny to see Senator Stevens all mad...the guy who tried to give us the bridge to nowhere. Well, I can see your point of view, Marc, that more oil now is better than nothing, I think that everytime I go fill up the tank in my old red truck.

Posted by: Fred Sanford at December 21, 2005 7:09 PM

P.S. I hate posting again so quickly, but....

Hey, Anthony, Chafee staffer, do you know who doesn't have a backbone and caves to environmentalists...yeah your guy, Chafee. Laffey knows ANWR is a stop-gap measure. Your guy doesn't want any special interests mad at him so he votes for billions in tax breaks for oil companies in the senate version of the energy bill (makes big oil happy...and Exxon sends donations) and then he votes against more refineries and ANWR to keep the green special intersts happy....and we both know those are the the facts.
Laffey has backbone...look at his position on national security. In a state where the war is rather unpopular, Laffey is not afraid to say he supported the war, and would oppose timetables for withdrawl from Iraq while your guy voted againstt he war and was the only "Republican" who voted with the Democrats to have a timetable for withdrawl from Iraq. Get better talking pionts Anthony....go back to attacking Laffey's some more about pixelation.

Posted by: Fred Sanford at December 21, 2005 7:25 PM

Bountyhunter and Fred Sanford, I think you both understand what I'm saying, but I want to stress it again, just in case. While ANWR itself may not offer much alleviation, it is still better than nothing and it doesn't preclude doing research in other areas. The U.S. should be able to do both things at once. In fact, I wonder if Mayor Laffey would support R&D that works towards more cost-affordable exploitation of domestic oil in hard-to-get places such as shale or bedrock? Or is it just for non-oil related technology? Could he be transferring the conservative notion of starving the government to shrink it to the oil industry? (These are sincere questions, not rhetorical).

Posted by: Marc Comtois at December 21, 2005 7:33 PM

There are an estimated 10 BILLION barrels of oil in ANWR. That may not be enough oil for the next century, but it is about as much oil as is contained in Prudhoe Bay, not an insignificant amount as many contend.

Additionally, newer methods of oil extraction make less of an impact on the environment.

Fred, for the record Chafee is an environmentalist and his vote doesn't surprise me. I believe he was wrong in voting against drilling in ANWR and I believe that Laffey is wrong for opposing it, too.

Posted by: Anthony at December 21, 2005 8:13 PM

Anyone serious about energy independence will be ignoring ANWR's piddly amount of oil and instead looking at the Fischer-Tropsch process. The Democrats are outpacing the Republicans by a mile.

Posted by: Joe at December 21, 2005 10:01 PM

Are all the Chafee people bad with math like you (first James the bad math teacher and now you)? Lets assume you are right and ANWR has 10 billion barrels of oil...well the US consumes 20 million barrels a DAY (go see the campaign web site that along with pixelation has real substance- ie Laffey's energy slides). That means the 10 billion would be used up in 500 days..a little over a year. Even assuming all the ANWR oil only replaced the oil we import (11 million per day in 2003- see Laffey's slides once again) that means ANWR would be used up in little over 1000 days or 3 years. Thus, it would not meaningfully reduce our dependence on foreign oil... it's a stop gap measure. I noticed you dropped the backbone line of talking move because Chafee has none (now I am voting for Bolton, now I am voting against him)...go back to the pixelation line of attack and stay away form substance, Anthony.

On the subject of substance, Marc, again I do acknowledge the validity of the concept some is "better than nothing" when it comes to oil. It is appealing,and it appealed to me for a long time..especially since I drive a gas guzzling red truck. But, when you look at the numbers Laffey has in his slides ie the US oil reserves and US oil consumption, you know more drilling in the US is just not a long-term solution for US. First, I think Laffey wants to focus on reducing our demand for oil, thereby reducing our need for foreign oil, and not finding ways to get more oil in the US, where there is little anyway for the long-term. Second, since oil is not future, Laffey I think wants to start the shift to other forms of energy. Laffey used the Eisenhower example in his op-ed. Once essentially everything traveled by railroads (who were influential economic giants) and then Eisenhower invested in the interstate highway system, and now railroads are dead and trucking is king. Laffey I think is trying to suggest, that instead of pouring more money, and more resources into oil, and feeding these well-connected oil giants, we need to look forward and think of alternative renewable his op-ed he didn't rule anything else out expect for oil it appears. I apologize for being long-winded, but I ususally don't have meanignful conversations with people on this wesbite like I am having with you. Instead, I get stuck with Chafee talking point fools like Anthony, Tim, and James, who remind me of my son, Lamont sometimes...just more stubborn. Bottom line, Laffey I think is saying investing in oil is not a long-term solution, we need to invest our time and resources in other forms of energy especially renewable alternatvie fuels and reduce our consumption of oil. I hope you can respect the concept and policy, because I do respect yours.

Posted by: F at December 21, 2005 10:06 PM

Sorry there for the typo, F is of course me Fred G. Sandford.

Posted by: Fred Sanford at December 21, 2005 10:08 PM

Certainly reducing our dependence on oil altogether, not just foreign oil, via the development of cost-efficient alternative technologies achieves a number of laudable goals.

For one, it would be environmentally sound not just in relation to drilling, but also for the emissions from burning it.
Second, we can reduce the value of oil world-wide, thus reducing the funding capabilities of the anti-American regimes.
Third, the decentralized nature of solar power or wind power generation eliminates the security threat of, say, blowing up a pipeline.

Fourth, at some point we will run out of oil.

The Washington politicians in office today have demonstrated an inability to deal with any of these essential issues. We need new blood in Washington with new ideas and the ability to carry them out. We need people like Laffey who are willing to shake up the status quo and get these problems solved, TODAY!

Posted by: Jim at December 21, 2005 10:15 PM

People. Any fossil fuel is a finite resource. Energy companies realize this. The US gov't realizes this. But the simple fact remains that we are utterly dependent on it no matter where we get it from, and any future oil reserves are in essence a stop-gap measure to what promises to be a much "greener" future.

But if we can make it cheaper to do business and encourage businesses to invest in R&D while at the same time establishing a new pipeline to direct towards alternative petro-product development, I don't see how you can make a rational economic or national security argument that ANWR would not be a valuable resource to our immediate and future interests. The technology is not far away, but the infrastructural development that would be needed for Laffey's energy policy would be a monumental undertaking that will take years and face an unending string of challenges. It's simply not a wise investment to disregard ANWR and embark on technology that does not have the foundation in modern engineering or manufacturing that other advances have already had in place due to natural economic progression.

I agree with the post. There is something that does not translate with Laffey's position. And I believe that this is one area where Laffey's supporters, rather than Chafee's have been forced to compromise their principles for the sake of supporting their candidate.

Posted by: john b at December 21, 2005 10:45 PM

If you had read my posting, you would see that I did not suggest that drilling in ANWR was a long term solution. However, I find it irksome that people tend to dismiss 10 billion of already identified barrels as insignificant particularly when the environmental impact is fairly small and the region from which the oil is drawn is supportive of drilling. There is no significant Not In My Backyard protest movement in Alaska, so it's only outsiders who oppose the project.

Fred, I'm sure you realize that ANWR is just another source of oil. The Republicans are not suggesting that it would become the US's only source of oil. However, having the ability to release ANWR oil when OPEC starts artifically raising the price/barrel would allow the US to have greater control over the market price for oil. Just by having this ability, the US would be able to limit ceiling on oil's market price.

My opinion hasn't changed. I agree with John B. that Laffey is compromising for political expediency.

Say hello to everyone at Laffey headquarters for me once you get off work from your state job.

Posted by: Anthony at December 21, 2005 11:04 PM

Here is a posting I wrote several months ago on energy issues.

Posted by: Donald B. Hawthorne at December 21, 2005 11:32 PM

John B.,

Laffey referred to higher CAFE standards in his op-ed. Higher CAFE standards are the singlest most important thing that can be done to reduce oil consumption, and it could be implemented over a few years with no infrastructure changes. CAFE was implemented in the 1970s over a few years, and as a result we had less oil consumption and lower prices in the 1980s.
I do admit that the renewable stuff would take a a long period of time. However, drilling in the ANWR won't happen over night. First, you got to get the rigs there and then build a pipleine into the this is not quick relief like dipping into the oil reserve. Furthermore, the ANWR pipeline would just be another place we need to guard from terrorist attacks. If that was hit, it would certainly be as bad as Katrina from an energy percpective.

Look I wish, we had all the oil we need here in the US. I could care less about moose in Alaska, but you can't ignore the numbers and the reality. ANWR is a great soundbite and it angers the greenies, but its not a solution. Instead, its just more of the same. My litnus test is real soltuions to public policy problems and ANWR is just a drop in the gas tank.

All this energy talk is making this old man lose energy. Maybe by morning the Laffey crtics on this blog (I am not including Marc in that group, I know you are being sincere), can come up with some numbers which shows that ANWR is a REAL solution to our energy problems. Maybe, Chafee will come up with an energy plan like Laffey ...nah, he rather be kissing up to Chavez's dictatorial behind..another stop gap approach.

Posted by: Fred Sanford at December 21, 2005 11:38 PM

I think you took the same economics course as your boss Chafee (wasn't he a classics major)..the amount of oil in ANWR would have a deminimus impact on world oil some economic models to the contrary. Political expediency, hmm, like when Chafee's kisses up to Chavez...or does he really believe Chavez rules over a democracy.

Hey I am only a lowly junkman who drives around in a red truck with a Laffey sticker on my bumper...I don't got a fine government job like you, no sir.

Posted by: Fred Sanford at December 21, 2005 11:48 PM

Let's talk numbers. But rather than use Laffey's slides which cut and paste data from several different sources, here are the official numbers from the DOE, along with the official report on ANWR, so that people can make their own minds-

Also, below is a link to the Heritage Foundation policy memo that makes the same point I was making: opening ANWR to drilling is the best single step the federal governement can take to reduce oil prices.

I'm not advocating to stop research into other forms of fuel. Everyone knows fossil fuel is a limited resource and I never suggested ANWR is the solution to all our problems.

What I am suggesting is that opening ANWR to drilling would have such a minimal environmental impact and would temporarily reduce our dependency on foreign oil. It is ridiculous not to open up this domestic resource.

Laffey can say 10-16 billion barrels of oil doesn't make much of a difference or that the tens of billions of dollars that will instead be spent on foreign oil is a small amount. But that is still oil that we would have had and it is still billions of dollars that would have been kept in the US rather than sending the money to the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia!

And all this because politicians are too spineless (your guy Laffey included) to step up to a few hardcore environmentalists!

Posted by: Anthony at December 22, 2005 5:09 PM

I am happy you did some research rather than just use Chafee talking points. Here is the bottom line, you still can't show that ANWR is a REAL solution to our energy problem, its a literal drop in the gas tank over the long-term. Yes, who cares about moose in Alaska, but save me the hype that it solves anything. Its one of those things that makes little difference except its failure to pass angers Ted Stevens, the King of Pork.
I know your talking point is to emphasize that Laffey is not a real you talk about spinelessness. The defintion of spineless is not Laffey, he fired the crossing guards unlike Chafee who when he was mayor of Warwick gave them free health insurance, and Laffey has the guts to support the war unlike Chafee in this anti-war state. Take a look in the Republican dictionary for spineless and you find a picture of Chafee, the same one that hangs at your office. You're boring Anthony...please have the Chafee campaign send someone else to blog here and to bash Laffey with better material.

Posted by: Fred Sanford at December 22, 2005 6:06 PM

For the record, I do not work for Chafee, although I'm sure you would like that. Nor was my point to show that Laffey is not a real Republican. I think Steve Laffey is for some strange reason trying to distance himself from the Republican Party since he announced for Senate, so he is doing that all by himself.

My overall point was to show that compromise is necessary in politics.

I've read several posts that attacked Chafee for compromising on legislation, while stating that Laffey wouldn't compromise because he has a "backbone".

It is obvious that Laffey is compromising on ANWR to get the votes of pro-environment voters and he isn't even in office.

My original point was to show that Laffey is not that different from Chafee. Both are politicians, so conservatives who think Laffey (or Chafee for that matter) is the "great white hope" for Rhode Island are mistaken.

Posted by: Anthony at December 22, 2005 11:31 PM

First substance, the article you cite from the Heritage Foundation states "It will take at least seven years of work before the first barrel becomes available, and so ANWR will not affect current oil and gas prices". It then went on to say that "ANWR alone will not dramatically bring down the global price of oil". So your own source shows that ANWR is not REAL solution to our energy problems in the short or I have said all along on this website.

Now for the silly talking point you got from the Chafee campaign. I noticed you backed off from the backbone and spinelss line of attack...that's right, that argument won't work with Laffey. So you get new a pointer from your bosses ...just, say ... Chafee and Laffey both compromise...yeah, blur the differences. WRONG.

Laffey does not compromise his fundamental priniciples. He does negotiate and compromise as shown by the fact that Laffey negotiated a 20% co-share with a union, and got HSAs while Chafee as mayor gave free health isnurance for crossing guards. But Laffey doesn't compromise on fundamental Republican issues like Bush's tax cuts, the war, and strict constructionists on the Supreme Court...your guy does. Laffey is with the Republicans on all those three fundamental issues.

Sorry, Chafee doesn't compromise his principles on those fundamental Republican issues, he just has LIBERAL principles on those fundamental isses. Now, that is the difference between Chafee and Laffey when it comes to compromise: Laffey won't compromise on fundamental Republican principles, while your guy doesn't have Republican principles on these fundamental issues.

Look, I know you are told to always get the last word, so go ahead. This is not interesting any longer for me. Anyway, I got to go out and do some Christmas shopping in my junkyard. It's times like these that I wish Santa Claus was real just like I wish ANWR was a real solution. By the way, can't you guys find someone better to come on here and blog mon behalf of Chafee, you are not challenging. How about Toby the polar bear, he sounds scary. Have a Merry Christmas.

Posted by: Fred Sanford at December 23, 2005 5:03 PM