Arctic Drilling or Ethanol? You Decide.

As the House-Senate conference committee on the energy bill takes up the most controversial issues this week, the Competitive Enterprise Institute suggests that two key provisions should be compared. Leading environmentalists claim that the House-passed provision to open 2000 acres of the 19 million acre Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to oil and gas exploration will not make a significant contribution to America's energy supplies. For example, Carl Pope, executive director of the Sierra Club, said, "Drilling in the Arctic Refuge won't address our nation's energy needs or make a dent in gas prices." Another expert, Leonardo DiCaprio, is quoted on the web site of the Natural Resources Defense Council: "As for the best way to reduce our oil dependence, the oil beneath the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge would never amount to more than a drop in the bucket." On the other hand, environmentalists support provisions in the Senate-passed version that would expand subsidies and mandates for renewable sources of energy.

CEI has compared one such provision¡ªthe expanded ethanol mandate¡ªwith the ANWR provision for potential energy production. Using government data, CEI estimates that the Senate's expanded ethanol mandate, which would require approximately 16 million acres of corn to be planted each year to produce 5 billion gallons of ethanol, could produce the same amount of energy as the USGS mean estimate of ANWR's energy reserves in 580 years. The calculations are explained below.

"ANWR may be a 'drop in the bucket' as Leonardo Di Caprio and other environmentalists claim, but it is a pretty big drop compared to what the environmentalists are trying to sell to the American people. The fact that it would take 580 years of growing corn on 16 million acres, an area larger than West Virginia, to produce enough ethanol to equal the probable amount of energy in ANWR reveals that the environmentalists are not serious. Their renewable energy proposals are fantasies designed to conceal their real agenda, which is to force Americans to use much less energy," said Myron Ebell, CEI¡¯s director of global warming policy.

To schedule interviews with Myron Ebell or Ben Lieberman, please call Richard Morrison at (202) 331-1010, ext. 266.


10.4 billion barrels of crude oil (U. S. Geological Survey estimates 5.7 to 16 billion barrels with a mean estimate of 10.4.)
= 436.8 billion gallons (42 gallons to the barrel)
-43.68 billion gallons (minus 10%, estimate of the energy needed to produce refined petroleum products)
= 393.12 billion gallons

Ethanol Mandate

5 billion gallons per year
-3.75 billion gallons (minus 75%, USDA estimate of the energy needed to produce ethanol. Note that some experts have concluded that it takes more than a gallon of ethanol to produce a gallon of ethanol.)
=1.25 billion gallons per year x 55 % (ethanol contains 76,000 BTUs per gallon compared to 138,000 BTUs for crude oil, or 55%)
= 677.5 million gallons per year Crude Oil Equivalent


U. S. Department of Agriculture estimates that it will take 16 million acres of corn production to produce 5 billion gallons of ethanol per year (based on 2.5 gallons per bushel and 125 bushels per acre), an area slightly larger than the State of West Virginia.
393.12 billion gallons / 677.5 million gallons per year = 580 years
580 years x 16 million acres per year = 9,280,000,000 (or 9.28 billion) acres total corn production = ANWR


The Senate's expanded ethanol mandate will require growing corn on 16 million acres for 580 years (for a total of 9.28 billion acres planted to corn, an area nearly four times the size of the United States) to produce ethanol equivalent in energy to the recoverable crude oil estimated to be contained in ANWR.