This is a partial transcript from "Hannity & Colmes," Mar. 8, 2005, that has been edited for clarity.
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SEAN HANNITY, CO-HOST: Congress is prepping for the big showdown over drilling for oil in Alaska's Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (search). We now have some new footage of the area. Joining us now is Interior Secretary Gale Norton, who just returned from a trip to the region.
Good to have you with us, Madam Secretary. Thank you for your time tonight.
GALE NORTON, INTERIOR SECRETARY: It's great to join you this evening.
COLMES: Why is it they're putting this ANWR thing in the budget bill? Judd Gregg has not answered why they're using speculative numbers. You can't do that in the budget bill with any degree of certainty.
NORTON: These are estimates that are done by the experts as to how much they expect we could get from the first lease sale that would take place in ANWR, and the estimate is about $2.5 billion. The Congressional Budget Office did its own estimate and thought that, over the course of four years of leasing, there would be an even higher number at $5 billion.
COLMES: But it's all speculative. You can't take that number to the bank. The U.S. Geological Survey (search) says there's less than a year's worth of economically recoverable oil in the coastal plain. There's some great dispute about how much oil we'd actually get from this area.
NORTON: It is clear. We don't know exactly how much is there, until there actually is some exploratory drilling that would take place. But the experts in the U.S. Geological Survey have gone through and analyzed the information that we do have, some seismic data. Their estimate is that there would be 10.4 billion barrels of technically recoverable oil. And we're working to try and put that in perspective so that the American people understand what role that plays in our energy future.
COLMES: Why do the U.S. Geological Survey say less than a year's worth of recoverable oil? There's an SUV loophole, under which large vehicles classified as light trucks. Closing that loophole could save more than a million barrels a day by 2015. And this wouldn't be even online for another decade, would it?
NORTON: The administration has actually cut the mileage for SUVs, or reduced the amount of gasoline that those will be using in the future. There has to be a balance of renewable energy and energy conservation.It would take several years for oil to come from a ANWR, probably about 10 years. But we need to plan ahead. We also know that China and India, as their economies ramp up, are using more and more energy. There's more competition on the world market, which means that Americans will be paying higher prices and having even more need for energy security.
HANNITY: Hey, Secretary Norton thanks for being with us. Appreciate it. Just let me get a few facts on the table. We now import nearly 60 percent of our oil in this country. Is that correct?
NORTON: That's correct.
HANNITY: We're dependent on foreign oil than we have ever been. If we were to drill in ANWAR, we would only use 0.01 percent of their acres, about 2,000 acres out of what — out of 19 million acres. Isn't that correct?
NORTON: That's right. And that restriction would be put in place by law so that we could be sure that the footprint of development would be limited.
HANNITY: Yes. And what we're really looking at here is the frozen tundra. Isn't one of the major reasons that liberals don't want us to drill in this frozen tundra is because they're concerned about the mating habits of the porcupine caribou?
NORTON: Actually, the coastal plain is an area that the caribou migrate through. And that is something that we would have to be careful about, as we would regulate to make sure that the caribou are protected. But actually, most of the work would take place in the wintertime. The caribou are there in the summertime.
HANNITY: Well, the same predictions were made, and correct me if I'm wrong, when we were going to drill in Prudhoe Bay (search), and in fact, I believe we quadrupled the herd size of the caribou, correct?
NORTON: That's right. It's a much larger herd than it was when the drilling first began in Prudhoe Bay.
HANNITY: I want people to understand here. So here we have a vast wildness, empty tundra, and we have the second largest oil find in American history. Now, according to the U.S. Geological Society, if their estimate of 10.4 billion barrels, with new recovery technology, peak production, that the amount of oil we could pull out of there, over a million barrels a day for roughly 30 years.
And correct me if I'm wrong, Madam Secretary, that would be the equivalent of everything we import from Saudi Arabia for that period of time, right?
NORTON: Well, we produce for ourselves about 5.7 million barrels a day. This would be a million barrels a day that would be added to the domestic production. The amount we import from Saudi Arabia varies, but it at least is larger than what we import from almost any other country.
COLMES: Why does the U.S. Geological Survey say less than a year's worth of recoverable oil?
HANNITY: That's not what they said.
NORTON: That would be if you used the lowest estimate and if you used everything all at once and there was no place else in the world we were getting any energy.
COLMES: All right, Madam Secretary, we thank you very much for being with us tonight. Good to see you.
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