Rep. Wayne Owens, D-Utah, introduced a bill Thursday to make it financially tougher to drill for oil in the environmentally delicate Alaska National Wildlife Refuge.
His bill would, however, give oil companies incentives to use advances in technology to recover more oil from older, existing wells - through what are called enhanced oil recovery systems."Why should we attack our wild areas with rigs, pipelines and drilling mud when enhanced oil recovery uses our existing infrastructure and delivery systems?" Owens told the House as he introduced the bill.
Owens has said that 70 percent of all known oil remains untapped in existing wells. He said enhanced recovery systems could produce another 80 billion barrels of domestic oil - 50 percent of all the oil the United States has ever produced.
It could also produce more than a billion barrels extra in Utah.
Owens' bill would add several new enhanced recovery techniques to those already qualifying for tax breaks and other incentives. Some depreciation allowances that extend only to the first 1,000 barrels of oil recovered would also be extended to encourage increased production.
But his bill also eliminates what Owens says are "unnecessary tax breaks, which would be given to large oil companies for exploration in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. We need to protect our natural resources, not needlessly promote their destruction."
President Bush's National Energy Strategy recently released calls for oil exploration in that Alaska refuge, which environmentalists, including Owens, have attacked.
Owens said, "Our addiction to foreign oil is not an excuse to exploit the Alaska National Wildlife Refuge. It is a challenge to find a better energy policy. Enhanced oil recovery is a rare opportunity to increase energy production and preserve our ecological treasures."