First of all, we must recognize that “if major safeguards were in place for the environment” is a very big “if.” We have not yet found ways to make oil drilling and transport completely safe. We have not found ways to prevent fossil fuel use from causing climate change. There is no indication that either of these things is even possible. So this is a condition that may never be met.
If drilling for oil were completely safe, it would not solve all of our oil-related problems. In fact, it might not have much of an impact at all. It is true that it would clearly provide some number of jobs in the area where the drilling occurs. More jobs would surely be a good thing in today’s economy. However, it would not be likely to dramatically lower oil prices and it would not be likely to relieve us of having to try to keep peace in the Middle East.
The reason for both of these facts is globalization. The world’s economy is very closely tied together. If we start producing more oil in the US, it will simply go into the global market as a whole. We would not be able to keep it for US use only and, thereby, possibly lower the price of gas and oil. Because the world’s economy is so globalized, the Middle East will matter to us even if we no longer get any oil from there. If the region were to fall apart, the world’s economy would be harmed badly by the resulting lack of oil. Even if we could keep what we have, our trading partners would all be harmed, thus harming our own economy.
Thus, even if we could drill in the Arctic without fear of any environmental degradation, our problems would not all be solved.