Friday, June 20, 2008
After reading about your comments on how the caribou have lived better in Alaska after drilling in Prudhoe Bay started, I was reminded of a paper I had to read in graduate school. Co-authored by my professor Tom Willett (along with Ryan Amacher; it's in this book if you want to read it), it talked about the preservation of the marshes in Louisiana where birds wintered over that were atop gas and oil reserves. Meanwhile let me refer you to this 2005 study by the Reason Foundation, which has a synopsis of what happened.
Deep in the marshes of Louisiana, there is living proof that oil and wildlife can mix. The Rainey Sanctuary is such an important bird sanctuary that even the public is not allowed to visit, but because they own the land, many years ago Audubon weighed the benefits of oil and gas development against the environmental hazards, and chose to go ahead. Of course, they took the precautions they thought necessary to protect the birds, but they also reasonably determined that the risks of environmental damage were outweighed by the size of the revenues from development.Here's the policy summary from which the above is taken, and the whole study. The secret is to call the Nature Conservancy or some other environmental group -- it's irrelevant economically, but I'm sure important politically -- and give them ANWR. Then turn to the exploration firms and say "you want that oil? Work it out with this group." I only use the Nature Conservancy in this example because they have experience with selling oil rights. It's time to put the power of Coase to work for energy by offering some of the proceeds to the environmental groups. Call it "free-market environmentalism". I encourage you to read the links in this paragraph.
Rainey�s 26,000 acres of brackish and freshwater marshes are a rich feeding area for wintering waterfowl. And in the early 1980s, gas wells in Rainey brought in close to a million dollars in revenues to the preserve. The wells have been in operation for decades, and the wildlife doesn�t seem to mind.
Thus, despite the National Audubon Society�s opposition to oil and gas exploration on public lands like the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, state chapters of the Audubon Society have demonstrated that it can be done responsibly at the Rainey preserve in Louisiana and in Michigan at the Baker Sanctuary.
P.S. Notice also the principle of privatizing public lands. You could make a mark in this area.