In challenging Jonathan Waterman's defense of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge ["What We Would Lose in Alaska," op-ed, June 6], energy experts Peter Huber and Mark Mills set up a straw man ["What We Would Gain in Alaska," letters, June 15]. The letter writers correctly noted that Mr. Waterman erred in stating that 1 million barrels of new oil per day from Alaska would represent a 0.5 percent annual increase in domestic energy supply. But that would not change the thrust of his argument, which was that Alaskan oil would make the United States "less dependent on oil imports."
Even if exploration in the refuge were successful, according to a U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) analysis, in 2020 the United States would still be importing 64 to 67 percent of its crude oil -- an increase from today's level, which is 59 percent.
Extrapolating from EIA projections through 2025, the United States is on track to consume a total of nearly 500 billion barrels of oil by 2050. In contrast, this nation possesses about 31 billion barrels of crude oil reserves.
Those who believe additional production from Alaska is part of the solution should know that the U.S. Geological Survey estimates that undis- covered oil to the west and south of Prudhoe Bay exceeds the agency's estimate of Arctic National Wildlife Refuge potential by about 25 percent. Moreover, much of this potential oil lies closer to the Trans Alaska Pipeline System than the Arctic refuge, giving at least some of these potential discoveries an economic advantage over the Arctic refuge.
RICHARD A. FINEBERG