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They're Talking about Drilling in the ANWR Again

With the price of oil going up and staying up, there's been a lot of talk lately about the Alaskan National Wildlife Refuge and the possibility of drilling for oil there. In fact, the Senate voted today to open the area for drilling in a 51-49 vote.

In 1876, Secretary of State William H. Seward bought Alaska from Russia for $7,200,000, or about 2 cents per acre. Most Americans thought the area was a wasteland of ice and snow, and referred to it as “Seward’s Folly.” Back then, no one would have lifted a finger to protest the use of the region’s natural resources. However, Alaska proved to be rich in fish, timber, tourist attractions, and petroleum and suddenly people became concerned that using those resources would spoil the pristine country.

Many on both sides of the issue are concerned with the effect that drilling in the Alaskan National Wildlife Refuge would have on the environment. It was originally believed that drilling would cause widespread plant and wildlife disruption or destruction. However, this argument has been nearly abandoned by most groups in light of recent research.

The ANWR contains the greatest diversity of wildlife of any protected area in the circumpolar north, and is, like most environments, a fragile ecosystem. Some (who are only vaguely familiar with the area) would describe the region as the nation’s last true wilderness and important environmental area. Although descriptions like these describe much of the ANWR, they are almost opposite of Area 1002, which is the section of ANWR being considered for oil drilling. In description of the flat, treeless, costal plain area at the top corner of ANWR where the oil is located, Jonah Goldberg, editor of National Review, notes “If you wanted a picture to go with the word ‘Godforsaken’ in the dictionary, [Area 1002] would do nicely.” This area of 1.5 million acres (8% of the ANWR) is the only area being considered for development. The remaining 17.5 million acres will remain permanently closed to any kind of development. In addition, of the 1.5 million acres in question, less than 2000 acres would be affected (visit if you want to know more). Drilling in this area would pose no threat to animal life. In fact, it might even benefit the wildlife.

Conservationists claim that development could have a negative impact on the caribou, and thus, on the Natives who depend on them for survival. However, the Alaska Fish and Game Department reports an increase of thirty-five percent in the caribou populations since the 1969 mining of near by oil field Prudhoe Bay. The caribou recognize the protection provided within the boundaries of the pipeline area, and now migrate there. The caribou population is up and is contributing to the success of the Native Alaskans.

When we consider these facts, the environmental impact of drilling would be minimal, and in many cases may actually improve the outlook for the future of plant and animal species living within the ANWR. But this is not the only benefit to using these resources.

The main cause of the rise in oil prices is due to the cutbacks in oil production on the part of the member countries of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries. It can be argued that the oil held in reserve in Alaska is just a drop in the bucket. In contrast to the huge oil reserves of these countries, it may be said the Alaska holds little oil. Whether or not exploiting these reserves could really decrease our dependence on other countries for oil is also debatable. But other benefits of doing so are clear.

The United States is currently fifty-six percent dependant on foreign oil. These imports come mainly from OPEC which includes Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Iran, Iraq, and United Arab Emirates. These countries are expected to have long-term control over world oil supplies and prices. With other countries controlling the price of our oil, and because of our great dependence on it, we really have no choice but to pay the demand price to this oil cartel.

Although exactly how much oil is contained in Alaskan reserves is unsure, it is estimated by the U.S. Geological Survey that Alaska contains 16 billion barrels of oil, equal to five years of total U.S. imports. Conservationists assert that Alaska holds only a “six-month supply.” They often argue this based on the assumption that the ANWR would be the only source of oil to meet the entire country’s needs. This would not be the case. Even if it were the only source, more accurate information tells us that it would provide at least a three-year supply as our sole source of oil. Interior Secretary Gale Nornton stated “A conservative estimate is that the Area 1002 would yield 10.4 billion gallons of oil, an amount roughly equal to fifty years of imports from [the former] Saddam Hussein’s Iraq. Area 1002 alone could easily provide more than twenty percent of our domestic oil production. It will enhance our independence from foreign oil.” The fact remains that these reserves would offset all oil imports from Saudi Arabia for thirty years. While a decreased dependence on foreign oil would not necessarily translate into drastically lower oil prices for Americans, it would mean greater market stability.

In addition to decreasing our dependence on OPEC countries for our oil imports, Alaskan oil production would stimulate the American economy by increasing federal revenues by billions of dollars, creating jobs, and improving the lives of the Alaskan Eskimos, among others.

Currently, the Nation’s oil imports cost more than $55.1 billion per year. This is an enormous amount of money being poured into the economies of foreign nations—instead of our own. It is probably unrealistic to assert that America would ever rely solely on its own oil, but certain that its economy would benefit in keeping a portion of this $55.1 billion in American circulation. Based on economic figures the Prudhoe Bay project has evidenced (which has so far saved the country $192 billion in buying foreign oil, and contributed more than $300 billion to our economy), Wharton Econometrics Forecasting Association (WEFA) estimates that ANWR oil would increase our GNP by $50.4 billion (WEFA Report).

Finally, Alaska is home to around 45,000 Eskimos. The government has made efforts to help them, such as a bill passed in 1971 which gave the Eskimos $962.5 million and 40 million acres of Alaskan land. They benefit mostly from the oil produced from this land and support the continued utilization and expansion of oil drilling to increase their standard of living and provide for their families. According to the WEFA, Alaskan oil drilling would also create between 250,000 to 735,000 jobs in all states. Permitted drilling in the ANWR would provide the natives with stable jobs and economy, allowing them to progress and improve their standard of living.

Whether or not the Alaskan oil reserves should be exploited remains a highly debatable question. While there are valid arguments on both sides, it seems that in the end the need to use at least a portion of the country’s own oil to offset the effects of foreign—and internal interests is here to stay. The evidence suggests use of the Alaskan oil reserves would improve the situation of the surrounding wildlife, and be beneficial both micro and macro economically.

I know arguments have been made that it would be a sure target for terrorist, and very costly to protect any such pipeline, but I still do not believe we should let terrorist dictate our independence (or lack thereof) from the very countries they control. Exploration and utilization of Alaska’s oil reserves would be beneficial to Americans in many ways, and I believe it must be considered for further use.

Thanks for listening, and thanks to everybody who thinks it's important enough to be involved.

I say we drill. And on top o

I say we drill. And on top of that, we drill enough that we don't depend on middle eastern nations for oil. We're already over there giving them tons of aid and financial support, and they reward us with anti-Americanism and terrorist strikes. The less dependent we are on them (or anyone for that matter) the less we have to deal with them.

Just my $.02.

Very interesting topic

It seems that the spot they want to drill is really dead. If real measures can be taken to avoid harm to wild-life and to the Eskimo community, I think it is OK if we drill. I really like the idea of creating new jobs. Hopefully that reflects on a drop on gas prices ($2/gallon, my gosh).

dependency/alternate things

With other countries controlling the price of our oil, and because of our great dependence on it, we really have no choice but to pay the demand price to this oil cartel.

How about we just don't buy it? Dependency on other countries is just one of the ill effects of the exorbitant gas usage in the United States. Pollution and obesity seem to be the most obvious side effects of our dependency on autos.

I agree, we should conserve.

I agree, we should conserve. Walk more. Ride public transportation more. Ride bikes more. Ride horses more. Eat more leafy greens.

The fact is, though, that with a growing population and growing economies across the globe, oil dependancy will never decline. Using some of our own natural resources is a temporary fix to a problem that I don't believe will ever end.

As far as using this new oil to decrease gasoline prices...not gunna happen. But, it may stave off the inflating price per gallon for a while, and it will give us an alternative supplement to Mid-East oil.


There is a dependency on internal combustion engines. Not on petroleum. We need to make a concerted effort to find alternatives to petroleum based fuel products and implement them. Here are some examples:

Definitely agree

I'm not opposed to drilling, but it's only a band-aid solution. We need to use our technology to come up with some alternatives to oil.

Here are some facts....

Here are some facts from

U.S. Trade Deficit in Crude Oil
1987: $27 billion
1990: $43.7 billion
1999: $59.2 billion
2002: $100 billion

Energy Independence Facts:

* The U.S. imports about two-thirds of its oil, and some experts predict our dependence upon foreign crude could climb to 70% in the years to come.
* For every barrel of ethanol produced, 1.2 barrels of petroleum are displaced at the refinery.
* Since 1978, U.S. ethanol production has replaced over 14 billion gallons of imported gasoline or crude oil.
* U.S. fuel consumption increased from 12 billion gallons per year in 1970, to 160 billion gallons in 2002.
* The U.S. imports 37 million gallons of gasoline per day, an amount that has more than doubled in just the past three years.