Should we drill in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge?


Fact Box

  • As of Monday, August 17, 2020, the Trump administration pushed ahead with plans to allow drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. The first leases to drill for oil and gas could be sold by the end of 2020.
  • Alaska Governor, Michael Dunleavy said drilling in ANWR would create jobs and boost the state’s economy, which is heavily reliant on oil production.
  • This move overturns 60 years of protections for the “largest remaining stretch of wilderness in the United States.” 
  • President Reagan first recommended drilling in 1987, but efforts to drill were continuously defeated by Democrats until 2017, when the Republican Party used its control of both houses of Congress to pass a bill authorizing lease sales. 
  • Gray wolves, caribou, and polar bears are native to the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge’s 19.6 million acres. These lands are vital to the indigenous Gwich’in people, who have relied on the landscape for years.

Kevin (No)

Considering the climate catastrophe we're facing, and the effects we're already seeing, we shouldn't be drilling for more oil anywhere. As pointed out on the WWF website, 'Global targets to reduce carbon dioxide emissions cannot be achieved if we open up the Arctic to new drilling.' It has also been concluded that even the targets put forth in the Paris climate accord are likely no longer sufficient in our efforts to prevent disaster. Speaking more locally, the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge has been called the 'crown jewel of our refuge system,' supporting an extraordinary variety of wildlife. There are 270+ species of wildlife thriving in the area, which local Indigenous people rely on, such as the caribou, as food sources. It would be a terrible mistake to destroy such a place with oil drilling.

Besides the environmental concerns, there is also reason to doubt the projected economic benefit, since the Trump administration's forecast is based on 'a couple of rosy assumptions,' as reported in National Geographic. As Michael Collins wrote in USA Today, no one can tell how much oil is even there, as a 2008 Department of Energy report doubted the ANWR underlying resource size. Collins also notes that critics argue 'revenue projections are based on outdated resource estimates, ignore production costs, and fail to take into account market conditions, including the current low crude prices.' The article states that drilling proponents cite a desire to 'import less oil from hostile countries,' however, the U.S. is already one of the world's largest oil producers. 

Elizabeth (Yes)

The recent Congressional action allowing for oil drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR) region of Alaska should continue. Like it or not, we are a country and a world beholden to the energy provided to us by oil and natural gas. We cannot claim to be environmentally responsible while still relying on oil as our primary energy source. The US is the world's largest oil producer, and, as such, we should be grateful that we have in place the environmental practices that we do.

Alaska is more than twice the size of Texas, and ANWR itself, at 19 million square acres, is larger than about ten entire U.S. States. In a small portion of the reserve, the known oil resources are estimated to contain approximately 7.6 billion barrels of oil. This is a significant amount of oil, and Alaska should have the option to responsibly open it for excavation if they choose. An Alaska Senator originally proposed the concept and, though indigenous support is mixed, there is broad support from the one tribe whose land is contained within ANWR.

Environmental accountability is essential, and while no doubt imperfect, the Bureau of Land Management has invested significant time in researching the impact of drilling. However, environmentalism should not trump the inhabitants' ability to advance their own lives. And it definitely should not be decided by those living outside the region. Locals of the Kaktovik village should have every right to plumbing, excellent education, and economic growth. Wildlife should be taken into account, but in large measure, it will adapt, especially given advanced timing procedures of actions already in place.

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