The Arctic National Wildlife Refuge is just that, a refuge. It is not supposed to be used as an oil field for our petroleum dependent culture. This is a sanctuary for wildlife; it’s the last five percent of Alaska’s northern coastal plain which has yet to be exploited by oil drilling.
The sad news is it may soon become another piece of damaged Alaska; congress is planning a vote in February on a short-sighted budget. The bill declares that the oil will help provide money for an energy policy, decrease prices and reduce America’s dependence on foreign oil; these are just unreal statistics to gain support.
The northern coastal plain, also known as the 1002 area, is the last remaining terrain on the northern coast of Alaska not yet mined for oil. This area of ANWR is some of the only remaining habitat for many animals. Drilling would have detrimental effects on porcupine, caribou, muskoxen, wolves, wolverine, polar bears, snow geese, seabirds, shorebirds and sea life, according to the Legislative Environmental Impact statement.
The tundra will also take a blow when the surveying needed before drilling begins. In the 1980s congress allowed 2-D studies to be done in the 1002 area, in 1999 the damage was still visible and many plants species had not yet regrown in the damaged areas. But now 3-D studies are permitted in this sensitive ecosystem. The 3-D studies give the oil companies a better picture of underground mines while leaving a bigger footprint of damage on the surface. Isn’t technology neat?
If congress does pass this bill, we won’t see any decreases in price at the pumps because it will be seven to 12 years before drilling will start. The supporters are also wrong when they say it will decrease prices on the world market; there is just not enough oil in ANWR to make a difference. Also, no energy problems will be solved because the U.S. uses only three percent of the annual oil consumption toward electricity. And the major issue is the lasting effects it will have on the Alaska wilderness long after all the oil has been used by greedy consumers.
In reality there is not a lot of oil in ANWR and it won’t make America independent from foreign oil use. U.S. geological surveyors determined that the 1002 area holds 3.2 billion barrels of oil, a much smaller number than the 14.5 billion barrels stated by supporters. But lets say that there are 14.5 billion barrels. America currently consumes 20 million barrels of oil a day, which is 7.3 billion barrels a year, and in ten years our consumption will increase. You do the math.
The fact of the matter is we are running out of oil, some estimates show that outside of OPEC there is only 10 years until peak production. It is not like tomorrow you will go to the pumps and there won’t be any gas. We are running out slowly; gradually it will get too expensive to buy and the only option will be petroleum-free energy.
Think about it this way – if there was more investment in fuel-efficient cars and less in trying to discover new oil fields, we would save the precious ecosystems and the ozone from the ever-increasing emissions. In the long run, an increase in fuel efficiency would save more oil than The Arctic National Wildlife Refuge would ever produce.
To help protect ANWR, please write to your congressman to oppose drilling or contact environmental protection agencies.