Making use of US oil resources

Jon Koppenhoefer's June 1 letter regarding President Bush's energy plan incorrectly states that oil from Alaska's North Slope "went mostly to Japan and California, while the rest of the nation continued to buy crude from ... OPEC nations." When the Trans-Alaska Pipeline became operational in 1977, oil was sent to West Coast states, including California, and the excess was shipped to US ports on the Gulf of Mexico. Export of North Slope oil was expressly forbidden until 1995, when Congress authorized the exports of any North Slope oil designated as surplus to US needs.

A relatively small amount of oil was, for a few years, sent to Taiwan and Japan; the last such shipment was in April 2000. None of this product is now surplus, so all of it is sent to the US West Coast. Currently, no North Slope oil is being exported. Indeed, were Alaska permitted to develop more of its vast oil reserves, they, too, would be available to meet the energy needs of the "lower 48."

As to the "piddling drop of oil" the writer seems to think lies under Alaska's Arctic Coastal Plain, estimates place that "piddling" amount at between 5 and 16 billion barrels. By comparison, Prudhoe Bay was estimated to contain about 10 billion barrels, but has, over 20 years, produced 13 billion barrels, equivalent to 30 years of imports from Saudi Arabia. Again referring to the letter, does it not seem the nation would be " 'independent' of ... our senses" were we not to develop this resource?

Sen. Frank H. Murkowski Washington, D.C.

Republican, Alaska

As I understand it, the Alaska pipeline was put in - at American taxpayers' expense - with a promise that banned selling oil abroad. This ban has since been lifted.

In view of the West Coast energy emergency, why am I not hearing anything about putting the ban back on? This would seem to be an immediate help.

Beula Maus Eugene, Ore.

Sex-education needs

Concerning your June 8 editorial, "Teen Moms and Dads," about sexually active teenagers: While I agree that abstinence is a healthier choice for teenagers, because it prevents disease and pregnancy, I don't believe it is realistic to expect that abstinence-only sex-education programs work.

I am 20 years old, so I still remember what it was like to be a hormonally charged, curious adolescent. Most teenagers have these feelings, and many act on them. Society tells kids that it's OK to have sex at a young age, and whether this is OK morally or not (I believe that's a personal judgment call), we must teach kids how to prevent pregnancy and disease.

The sad reality is that the more ignorant kids are, the more likely it is that they will be irresponsible, sexually. I believe that not only should contraception and prevention be taught in the schools and through different youth services, but such programs and contraceptives should be free of charge. Free birth control does not encourage sex; it helps prevent the negative physical side-effects that unprotected sex can have. This is especially important for poorer teenagers, who seem to be at greater risk.

I also fully agree with your comments about aiming more programs at young men. They are just as responsible as teenage girls for preventing unsafe sex - especially considering the "be a player" messages that society forces upon them.

So even though a teenager may not be emotionally mature enough to handle a healthy sexual relationship, he or she will often have sex anyway. As long as that is the case, teenagers must be provided with education and free birth control, so they can add at least that much responsibility to their activities.

Darcee Espelien Mesa, Ariz.

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(c) Copyright 2001. The Christian Science Monitor

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