Energy vs. wilderness

The authors of the opinion-page column ``The US needs a federal energy policy,'' Dec. 2, argue that the Reagan administration is ``still in search of an energy policy.'' It would have been far more candid for them to admit that the President has an energy policy but that they disagree with it. Under President Reagan's leadership, Energy Secretary John S. Herrington has clearly articulated national energy policy goals and strategies for action. The belief that energy conservation can contribute significantly to US energy security has not been abandoned.

The Reagan administration views energy conservation as improving the efficiency of energy use. We have been doing just that. Today the United States uses no more energy and less oil than in 1973 during the first oil embargo. Yet the population in that time has grown by more than 20 percent, the nation turns out 30 percent more products and services, and 35 million more vehicles are on the roads.

The critics charge that the administration has no energy policy, by which they mean that Washington is not regulating energy use. Yet they themselves benefit from the President's policy, which has led to lower-priced and more plentiful energy supplies. The US enjoys a much more stable and secure energy economy than it did seven years ago. Donna Fitzpatrick Assistant Secretary Department of Energy Washington

I agree with the main conclusion of this column. The nation does need a ``comprehensive, coherent energy policy'' and ``deserves thoughtful discussion of energy issues whenever federal policy is being set.'' But the column does not prescribe a solution to this critical national need. The authors criticize the current administration for its ``supply-side perspective.'' Yet they promote only conservation as the key to getting the nation off its present course toward ever more dangerous energy vulnerability. Certainly conservation is an essential part of the solution. But no one component will do the trick. Also, the solution can't be achieved by ignoring supplies and other economic realities.

Yes, we need to use energy more efficiently. Over time we need to depend less on oil and gas, replacing them with alternative energy forms. Yet clearly natural gas and, especially, oil will dominate US energy needs well beyond the year 2000.

The authors ignore this vital point in criticizing the proposal to open the coastal plain portion of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge for oil and gas exploration. They cite the availability of a ``much vaster area of the Northern Slope'' outside the refuge for lease as an alternative to exploring for resources. Yet that ``vaster area'' is not believed to have the same potential for significant oil discovery.

If the US is to get the additional oil it needs, explorers must have the opportunity to test areas that offer the best prospects for finding oil, not just the ``available'' ones. William W. Hopkins Anchorage, Alaska Alaska Oil and Gas Association

I was born and raised in Alaska and share the deep appreciation and concern for its wildlife expressed in the opinion-page column ``The Arctic coastal plain and humanity's debt to nature,'' Dec. 2. But in advocating further limits on oil development in that rich region, the author overlooks important ecological and economic realities. The column cites a long list of species which ``depend on the Arctic refuge in its untouched condition.'' No evidence supports this. Since it began, oil drilling on the slope has not noticeably threatened any wildlife. Caribou and moose populations have grown significantly along with development. These animals often graze at the foot of the large drilling infrastructures. ``Untouched'' nature may be an aesthetic human need, but wildlife is not so emotional.

The enormous demand for energy prompts Arctic development. Most of us have thus voted in favor of it by using electricity, heating our homes, and driving our cars. Rod Schenker Evanston, Ill.

Another poison being introduced into the Arctic ecosystem by the radical developers is greed. The honorable alliance with which the Alaskan aboriginal people established their reverent partnership with nature in the past was weakened by the corporate mandates of the Alaska Native Claim Settlement Act. The alliance is being severed by the pandering of multinational oil companies.

These companies' searches for exploitable natural resources have pulled entire villages out of their subsistence economies and into mixed cash economies. Few areas of land, ocean, lakes, and rivers are left unspoiled.

I agree: We must take a stand on the shores of the Arctic coastal plain or there will be no place left for future generations. David Allison Juneau, Alaska

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