Alaskan men have a long history of struggling to survive in the wilderness. Today, some, like the Gwich'in, a native Alaskan tribe, still choose to live off nature. Recently, though a new argument has come to Alaska, one that could destroy the traditions of the Gwich’in forever. Politicians, environmentalists, economists and neighbors now fight over the prospect of oil drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. Many of the arguments for drilling are worth consideration; however, in comparison to the evidence against it, they are neither convincing nor compelling.
In order to fully understand why drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge is such a big deal; we need to understand the history of the refuge. ANWR was created in 1980 by the United States Department of Interior. According to Scott Wallace of Smithsonian, federal legislators, at the time, set the land aside, not only to protect the United States’ large herd of caribou, but also for “possible future oil and gas development” (Wallace 52). Without a doubt, ANWR is valuable, both for its ecological uniqueness and its natural resources. ANWR’s wildlife is varied, and, according to Wallace (53), “dazzling.” In addition to hosting herds of caribou, he says, the refuge is home to polar bears, migratory birds, wolves, wolverines, musk ox, arctic foxes and snowy owls (Wallace 53). However, the oil beneath ANWR is also valuable.
However, without drilling, no one knows the exact amount of oil that could be drawn from the refuge, estimates range from four to twelve billion barrels (Urstadt 74). This had lead many to believe that the refuge’s oil reserves should be tapped. For example, the Inupiat, favor drilling for oil. According to Wallace, they worry that without the money brought in from oil drilling, they will not be able to enjoy their modern comforts. These comforts include heating and plumbing. The Inupiat have these things, because of tax money generated from nearby oil fields (Wallace 53).
The Inupiat are not the only people who hope to benefit from oil drilling in ANWR. In fact, political debates have sprung up across America. One argument for drilling is that it will help America gain energy independence. This has become an important issue as America’s ties to the countries it depends on for oil are threatened by its wartime actions. According to Republican representative Tom Cole, “Current gasoline prices makes exploring for new sources of domestic oil more necessary than ever for our national security and economic competitiveness.” (US Fed News Service, 1)
However, ANWR is not an endless source of oil. According to Richard Kerr, scientists estimate that “There's a 5% chance that area 1002 holds 11.8 billion barrels and a 95% chance that there are at least 4.2 billion barrels.” (Kerr 1) And according to economists, says Kerr, “ANWR's estimated 7.7 billion barrels would reduce U.S. dependence on foreign oil from 62% to 60%.” (Kerr 1) This would leave the United States still 38% dependent on OPEC and the Middle East. It leaves Americans tied to their wartime enemies and it leaves them tied to the stipulations of OPEC. Meaning lower gas prices are unlikely. Environmental groups, however, oppose drilling, protesting that it will endanger wildlife. According to Jocelyn Kaiser, the U.S. Geological Survey shows that drilling in ANWR, “could adversely affect a number of species such as polar bears and musk oxen.” (Kaiser 444). Another report shows that drilling could cause an 8.2% decline in Porcupine caribou calving, by forcing mothers to relocate (Kaiser 445). According to biologist Ken Whitten, “If mothers spend energy avoiding the oil infrastructure, they could lose weight and produce less milk or fail to get pregnant the following year.” (Kaiser 445) Meanwhile, according to Biologist Fran Mauer, who has worked in the refuge for twenty years, drilling could lead to overcrowding in caribou populations. This would mean that many caribou would...
Cited: "ARTIC NATIONAL WILDLIFE REFUGE
PART OF THE SOLUTION. " US Fed News Service, Including US State News [Washington, D.C.] 30 May 2006, Research Library. ProQuest. 15 Nov. 2007 <
Kerr, Richard. "A modest drop in a big bucket. " Science 296.5567 (2002): 444. Research Library. ProQuest. 15 Nov. 2007 <
Kaiser, Jocelyn. "Caribou study fuels debate on drilling in Arctic refuge." Science 296.556719 Apr 2002 444
445. Nov 14 2007. <
“SEN. ALLEN PRAISES ARTIC NATIONAL WILDLIFE REFUGE VOTE. " US Fed News Service, Including US State News [Washington, D.C.] 16 Mar. 2005. Research Library. ProQuest. 15 Nov. 2007
Urstadt, Bryant. "Arctic Refuge May Soon Be in the Hands of Big Oil. Will It Drill Clean?" Technology Review Apr. 2005. Web. .
Wallace, Scott. "ANWR The Great Divide." Smithsonian 36. 7 Oct 2005. 48
56. Nov 14 2007 .
Please join StudyMode to read the full document