Wednesday, May 21, 2008

ANWAR Alaska: Is Drilling For Oil In This Wildlife Refuge The Answer?

For those who are not aware, the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWAR) in Alaska is said to hold the largest undiscovered oil reserve in North America, and maybe even the world. We have known about the oil in ANWAR for a long time, but thanks to campaigning from environmentalists, the land has been untouched. It is estimated that the potential for recoverable oil in ANWAR would range in the multiple billions of barrels, along with trillions of cubic feet of natural gas, according to Forbes.

The political battle over oil in ANWAR has been fought for many years, but the closest to drilling we have gotten was back in 1995 when only a President Clinton veto stopped a bill from Congress that would have opened up ANWAR. Now a couple of senators from Alaska, Lisa Murkowski and Ted Stevens, are trying to resurrect the idea of drilling for oil in ANWAR. So, should we open up ANWAR Alaska for oil drilling?

This debate is tough for me. I certainly understand the economics of the matter and how beneficial this development could be for the U.S. economy. Not only would we be able to save billions of dollars off oil imports, but we would also see increased tax revenue and thousands of new jobs. Overall, it is without question that developing ANWAR would be great for the economy. At the same time, though, I can’t help but think of the environment.

Supporters of development in ANWAR claim that wildlife and oil development can coexist in harmony, and with the advances in technology, the chances of any mishaps are minimal. Yet when I watch videos like the one below I can’t help but have doubts:

If we could truly have both--development without interference to wildlife--I would be on board without hesitation, but I’m just not sure we are there yet, hence the internal debate I still have. The other thing to keep in mind is that it would likely be 15 years or so before any oil from ANWAR would hit the market. What if we were able to find a good alternative to oil within the next 15 years? The flip side of that argument, of course, is what if we don’t? If we think we are in dire straits now, just wait 15 years and see how bad things look if we don’t find some more oil soon. Just look back at the last time the ANWAR development bill was shot down, in 1995. Had that bill been passed we would soon be seeing the fruits of ANWAR’s black treasure; instead we are still in the same place we were back then development-wise, only with $130 per barrel oil instead of $16.86 per barrel oil, as it was back in 1995, according to the OPEC website.

I’m still undecided on the issue, and I guess to come to a conclusion, I will need to get more facts on the subject. If anyone has additional thoughts or information on the topic, I would love your input.


Craig C. Rowe said...

I have the same internal debate. Being a capitalist and an environmentalist don't always go well together. Another issue for me is the conflicting reports. Your post mentioned an enormous supply of oil in the area. I've read differently. Most likely, my readings are slanted toward the opponents' side. (Probably the case, as most of my knowledge on the issue has come from outdoor pubs and national park initiatives.) Your point about the lag time between drilling and marketability is a very valid one. It's going to take razor-sharp foresight on the part of the officials to nail down the timing. Still, we'll always need alternative sources of fuel even with an abundant oil supply. Like you, it seems I need more information. And in the end, I think that means it's not ready to be presented to the American people yet.

Eric Ames said...

You hit the nail on the head, where do we go to find the non-biased information? Either we are hearing from the pro-drilling side who gives us all sorts of info and stats saying why it is a great idea, or else we are hearing something completely different from the environmentalists. It would certainly help us make a more informed decision if we knew what the real facts were.

Anonymous said...

In terms of saftey in the 21st century, consider this. When Katrina blew through the gulf, 5 oil platforms were damaged and 2 completely destroyed. The top of one even ended up slamming on to shore. None of them leaked.

Anonymous said...

It is really amazing to me to try and comprehend the thinking that says yes, lets drill for oil in Anwar! The U.S. Military spends mega millions every year trying to clean up along the old Dew Line in Ak, all the contamination that is there from years of unkowingness, from ignorance or perahsp not wanting or caring TO KNOW!
Take a look at all the information about the TarSands in Alberta Canada and do a TOTAL rethink about Anwar. Do we really believe there will be no ecological damage, that animals and people can exist in that environment or do we want to not KNOW or even admit what we know! Is it that we do not care about the Native inhabitants in AK just as we have shown we care little for people of colour in our world! This kind of insanity needs to STOP- we live on a ball out in space and eventually this sphere will toss us all off because it will be so poisened! THINK alternative fuel source- THINK NOW!

misty said...

***In terms of saftey in the 21st century, consider this. When Katrina blew through the gulf, 5 oil platforms were damaged and 2 completely destroyed. The top of one even ended up slamming on to shore. None of them leaked.*** posted by someone else here-
- well isn't that comforting- you need to find out how many oils spills there are- far more than NOT! Do I want a crap shoot for my life, my children and grand children- all the inhabitants of this earth that is in peril! NO!