Will Drilling Affect the Alaskan Refuge?

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Impacts on Wildlife

In 2000, the Energy Information Administration (EIA) released a report on the potential oil production from the coastal plain of ANWR. The reports stated that the coastal plain region of ANWR is the largest unexplored, potentially productive geologic onshore basin in the United States. This study spurred residents and government officials who favor the dividend revenue from the oil companies to propose a plan for opening up the region for drilling.

While many are in favor of such a plan, many citizens of Alaska oppose opening up the coastal region, referred to as the 1002 Area, for drilling. Those opposed argue that drilling will impact the caribou migration through this area, which occurs each fall, and not only impact the caribou populations, but it will also have a negative effect on those Native Americans who are permitted to hunt the caribou and rely on them for food. This is only one of the potential impacts on wildlife.

Oil companies have repeatedly stated that the oil can be recovered without endangering wildlife or the fragile Arctic ecosystem. Conservationists and ecologists argue that none of the reserve should be developed when improvements in energy conservation could reduce the demand for oil. They contend that drilling in the reserve will harm the habitat of millions of migratory birds, caribou, grizzly bears, muskoxen and polar bears.

Despite the arguments of wildlife experts, those advocating the drilling claim that the Arctic Refuge could be developed by disturbing as few as a couple of thousand acres of the reserve. On the contrary, the U.S. Geological Survey studies reports oil in the refuge isn’t concentrated in a single, large reservoir, but is actually spread across the coastal plain in several small deposits. Drilling within all the deposits would inarguably entail extensive infrastructure - including roads and pipelines that would fragment the critical coastline habitat while disturbing and displacing wildlife.

Even if the precious Alaskan coast and all of its dependent wildlife could survive drilling, would the modest decrease in what we pay at the pump really make it worth it? According to many experts, opening up ANWR would hardly make a dent in relieving our dependence on foreign oil. According to the US Geological Survey, what lies beneath the 1002 Area would feed our cars for less than a year. Again, is it really worth it?

For more on ANWR, check out these great resources:

US Fish & Wildlife Service’s ANWR Site

Defenders of Wildlife