Calling the bureaucratic bluff

Written by Brian Hicks
Posted December 14, 2005

In fifth grade I had a nemesis named Andrew Sexton - the 'smart' kid in the class who thought he knew everything. And in all fairness, he usually did. It was quite frustrating.

Andrew and I always had heated debates (about as heated as a debate between two 10-year-olds can be, anyway) regarding just about anything. And while I did have to admit defeat about 90 percent of the time…I always knew when I had him on the ropes.

You see, anytime Andrew realized his argument was waning, he'd quickly manipulate the facts in his favor. Unfortunately, the guy's poker face was about as effective as a New Orleans levee. And when it appeared - that's when I went in for the kill.

Of course, this is back in 1981. The two of us had been alive for just over a decade - so poking holes in arguments was rarely a challenge.

We were ten!

Though as an adult, when I'm confronted with an argument (which happens about every hour on the hour in my line of work), I expect it to be a rational one, based on hard evidence sans manipulation.

Is that too much to ask?

Of course not. And that's why today, I'm calling out Interior Secretary Gale Norton.

Her poker face stinks.

I can see right through her and I'm calling her bluff.

Band aids for sinking ships

I've never made it a secret that environmental concerns are a priority for me come election time. And when I first heard about the possible drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR)…I was extremely concerned. I don't care how much oil's up there - I personally don't think it's worth it.

But my personal feelings on this issue are irrelevant.

From a purely economic perspective - the lure of Saudi-sized oil fields in the ANWR would be too strong to fight.

But that's the problem - these are not Saudi-sized oil fields.

These are miniscule baby pools - providing nothing more than band aids for a sinking ship.

Regardless, some still see dollar signs up there - and they're not backing down.

Gale Norton is an idiot

While campaigning for oil drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, Interior Secretary Gale Norton made the type of comments that would put her in the category of a desperate used car salesman trying to peddle a used, water-logged Geo in Louisiana.

According to Norton, the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge can supply enough petroleum for Florida for 29 years, New York for 34 years, Illinois for 43 years, California for 16 years or New Hampshire for 315 years.

But when asked how many years the whole country could get from ANWR's oil - her answer truly depicted just how weak the argument is for drilling in the ANWR.

In fact, my ten-year-old nemesis from elementary school probably could've come up with a better argument.

Here's what she had to say…
"When you look at it for the whole country, you really get somewhat of a deceiving picture." She claimed that this is "not the way this operates."
Okay Gale, so how does it operate?

She made a point to say that the question "assumes that unless a source of energy is going to meet all of America's needs, then it's not worth looking at."


I often hear the argument that solar isn't a viable option as it can't supply enough energy to meet all of our energy needs.

But here's the difference…

Solar energy won't run out.


And the reality is - and this is based on the administration's own estimates…the oil from the ANWR could supply the entire country for only 13 to 17 months before it's gone.

It's no wonder the big oil companies aren't doing cartwheels over this place.

Although the biggest multinational petroleum companies, like Chevron, Exxon Mobil and BP backed the developing of the ANWR - few are rushing to the party.

Ronald Chappel of BP Alaska stated that the "big oil companies go where there are substantial fields and where they can produce oil economically....Does ANWR have that? Who knows? We're building our Alaska business based on the opportunities we have in hand."

Oil companies and industry experts have pointed out that no one knows for certain how much they'll really be able to get from the ANWR.

Not to mention, a number of these companies fear that drilling in the area may be blocked by persistent environmental litigation, or that a future president or Congress could put the refuge 'out of bounds' again. This has happened with other federal lands in the past.

Kicking the habit

Chasing after oil in the ANWR to help relieve the energy crisis in the U.S. is the equivalent of giving a heroin addict 24-hours worth of methadone to kick his habit.

It won't work!

We're addicted to oil - and whether we like it or not, it's going to take more than a year and a half's worth of the domestic stuff to battle and defeat this addiction.

And let's be honest here…

Instead of throwing all that money into developing these oil production facilities - facilities that will be nothing more than scrap in less than two years - we could focus these investment dollars on solar, wind and geothermal installations that will continuously pump out clean energy for decades…plus, help us strengthen our energy infrastructure to allow for further energy independence.

Hell, we can already start to wean ourselves off foreign oil - just from our technology alone.

For example, increasing fuel efficiency standards for new passenger vehicles and trucks to an average of 40 miles per gallon over the next decade would save 60 billion barrels of oil over the next 50 years.

That's 11 times the likely yield from the Arctic Refuge.

Even if we did something as simple as upgrade the quality of replacement tires to match that of tires that come as standard equipment on new cars, we could save 7.3 billion barrels of oil over the next 50 years.

These are not difficult decisions folks.

The incredible shrinking black rainbow

While Gale Norton and all her lobbying buddies in D.C. have spent the past year cheering for arctic drilling, the solar industry has been working diligently; slashing photovoltaic production costs, ramping up solar generating capacity and making renewable energy investors a lot of money.

And quite frankly, the interest from the bigger oil companies towards solar, geothermal and wind is much more impressive than its interest in the ANWR too.

Yet every couple of months, we still have to hear from one more bureaucrat, spewing arguments that remind me more of my fifth-grade debates with Andrew Sexton than that of a rational argument based on fact - and not kickbacks.

Nonetheless, at the end of the day, you and I are here to make money.

If the fools want to chase the incredible shrinking black rainbow in Alaska - so be it. In the meantime, savvy energy investors will continue to cozy up to renewables in 2006. Just as they did this past year - chest-pounding all the way to the bank.

In fact, one of my Building-Integrated Photovoltaic companies has been going gangbusters for the last six trading days.

And the contracts we're waiting for haven't even materialized yet.

Somebody knows something - and we're hitching a ride!

So far we're up 58.3% in 7 weeks.

Yeah...I'm real interested in a puddle of oil in Alaska!

Until next time...

Jeff Siegel
Editor, Green Chip Stocks