Skip to comments.Arctic oil: Facts versus Fiction (ANWR)
Posted on 10/17/2002 10:52:13 AM PDT by alaskanfan
Over the years there have been a host of reasons given by environmentalists for why the coastal plain should not be developed. While some already have been mentioned, the following is a summary of others that require attention:
Myth: There's only a 200-day supply there, so why bother. Fact: The truth is that the latest U.S. Geological Survey estimates are that the entire "1002 Area" contains up to16 billion barrels of recoverable oil. If found, this oil could replace all of our imports from Saudi Arabia for more than 30 years! The reserve could prevent our dependence on foreign oil from getting any worse for decades. Rather than being 56 percent dependent like we are now, it could cut our dependence to around 50 percent, according to the Energy Information Agency.
Myth: They want to destroy the last pristine wilderness along Alaska's coast, even though 95% of the area is already open to oil development. Fact: The truth is that only 14 percent of the whole 1,500-mile Arctic coastal plain in Alaska is open to oil exploration. Estimates are upon discovery a major oil field could be developed using modern technology, affecting only a tiny 2,000-acre sliver of the 1.5-million-acre "1002 Area" of the Arctic coastal plain -- one hundredth of a percent of the entire 19-million-acre ANWR area. Remember that 8 million acres of the refuge are in permanent wilderness and roughly another 9.5 million acres are classified as normal refuge. Only a part of the Arctic coastal plain -- the "1002 Area" was left open for possible oil and gas development.
Myth: Oil drilling would affect the caribou. Fact: There is absolutely no indication that environmentally responsible exploration will harm the 129,000-member Porcupine caribou herd. In fact, the history over the past 26 years at neighboring Prudhoe Bay shows the opposite. There the Central Arctic caribou herd has more than tripled in size, from 6,000 animals in 1978 to 19,700 today. Caribou will flourish as they have throughout Alaska, where caribou out number people three to two. No hunting by non-Natives will be allowed.
Myth: Drilling would destroy the Native Gwich'in culture. Fact: The fear that Arctic development will harm the caribou and the Gwich'in culture is groundless. Given the strict controls planned to prevent disruption to the herd¹s summer calving grounds nothing will prevent the caribou from passing close enough to the Gwich¹ins -- protecting their yearly hunt. The Gwich'ins concern for oil development certainly seems recent. Just 15 years ago they issued a request for proposals to lease their 1.79 million acres of land for oil development. No where did they require restrictions to protect the caribou. Only when no oil was found on their lands did the Gwich'ins oppose oil work. (See Gwich'in land lease proposal)
Myth:Canada has protected their wildlife, we should do the same. Fact: Canada finally created a national park, but did so only after extensive exploration in the 1960s failed to find oil. Canadians on their Arctic coastal plain drilled 89 exploratory wells and extended the Dempster Highway from Dawson to Innuvik, cutting through the center of the Porcupine caribou herd's migration route. Such development did not harm the herd.
Myth:The coastal plain is America's last wilderness and must be protected. Fact: Alaska is already well protected. Less than 1 percent of Alaska currently is in private ownership and available for development. Alaska already has 192 million acres of parks, refuges, preserves and conservation system units, including 58 million acres of designated wilderness -- 61 percent of all American wilderness. Wilderness in Alaska already covers an area that equals all of Pennsylvania, New Jersey, West Virginia and Maryland. Further, in the coastal plain lies the Village of Kaktovik and its 222 residents, as well as a number of old radar sites.
Myth: Oil exploration would destroy the habitat of polar bears. Fact: Alaska has healthy stocks of polar bears, estimated at around 2,000. The Administration has positively identified only 15 polar bear dens on the entire coastal plain over an 11-year period. That¹s just one or two dens a year. Given that very little of the denning occurs on land -- most on the Arctic ice pack -- development certainly will not affect polar bears.
Myth: Prudhoe Bay has been littered with chemical and oil spills, the Arctic having been despoiled by some 17,000 spills since the 1970s. Fact: While some have claimed that oil development at Prudhoe Bay has harmed the environment, the truth is that Alaska's Arctic slope is still pristine. The few oil and chemical spills have almost always been confined to frozen gravel pads where they have been easily cleaned up. In 1993, for example, there were more than 160 "spills" on the North Slope involving nearly 60,000 gallons -- the highest level of spills in the 1990s. But only two spills involved oil and all but 10 gallons were into secondary containment structures and were easily cleaned up. Prudhoe Bay is by far the finest oil field in the world -- bar none!
Myth: Producing more oil would simply cause Americans to buy more gas-guzzling cars and defeat energy conservation efforts. Fact: America needs to be more energy efficient and to develop renewable, alternative fuels. But even with increased energy efficiency and conservation U.S. energy demands are forecast to increase by 19 percent in this decade and by 30 percent by 2020. By then America will be producing just 5.26 million barrels of oil a day if we continue on our current trend -- being forced to import 65 percent of our energy needs, according to the non-partisan Energy Information Agency. We will be needing to dock 30 giant foreign-flagged supertankers a day -- more than 10,000 a year -- to import the oil we need. That creates much more environmental risk than developing our own resources.
Myth: The vast majority of Americans oppose disturbing the Alaska Arctic. Fact: While there is a lot of misinformation about oil development in northern Alaska, Americans support responsible development when they know the facts about it. A poll by Gordon S. Black Corp. found that 56 percent support ANWR leasing, 37 percent oppose and 7 percent were undecided in a poll taken before the recent sharp rise in fuel prices. Americans want to protect the environment, but 74 percent support efforts to produce oil and natural gas resources within America. Alaskans do support it. The entire Congressional Delegation, the state's Senate and House, the Governor and 78 percent of residents of the village of Kaktovik, the Native village within the coastal plain, support development.
Myth: America doesn't need to open the plain while it allows exports of some of Alaska's oil. Fact: It is true that Congress in 1995 finally repealed a 1973 prohibition that had prevented any Alaska North Slope oil from being exported overseas. America for four years has exported a tiny amount of oil, about 5 percent, only oil that was excess to British Petroleum's West Coast refinery needs.
But with the pending merger of British Petroleum-Amoco and ARCO, Phillips Petroleum will take over ARCO Alaska's oil and facilities and end the need for exports. B.P. recently announced it will suspend any North Slope oil exports by the end of April when current contracts expire because there will be now be excess refinery capacity on the West Coast to handle all Alaska oil.
This is thus no longer an issue. For the record a study by the General Accounting Office last year confirmed that lifting the export ban produced twice as much new oil in America as exported and did so without any observable price hikes on consumers on the West Coast. (Source: Alaskan North Slope Oil: Limited Effects of Lifting Export Ban on Oil and Shipping Industries and Consumers, July 1999, GAO RCED-99-191.)
Myth: Alaskans are so "wealthy" they don't need to have ANWR opened. Fact: Alaska is far from a wealthy state. It is true that the state has a "permanent fund" -- the savings from a quarter of the leases, royalties and bonus payments the state has received as a result of development of the Prudhoe Bay oil field. The fund now stands at about $27 billion and currently pays all state residents a yearly dividend, about $1,500 per person. But Alaska citizens are expected to use their dividends to pay for services that might otherwise be provided by government (thus letting individuals make spending decisions at the local level rather than at the state level). And Alaska, the highest cost-of-living state in the nation and one of the last states to join the union, has billions of dollars of unmet infrastructure and social service needs -- no roads cross most of Alaska -- and sports the most fragile economy of any state in the Union.
Alaska always has been dependent on resource industries for its economy. While tourism is still growing, the Administration has been actively seeking to fell the state's timber industry. It has done nothing to promote a rebirth of its historic mining industry, and while our fishery harvests continue at an all-time high, prices for our fish are dropping. The simple fact is that oil accounts for far more than half of Alaska's gross product, and without future oil development Alaska's economy will sicken, forcing more and more Alaskans back onto the federal welfare dole.
Alaska's timber industry has fallen 62 percent (based on employment) in the past decade. Its oil and gas industry has lost 21 percent of its jobs in the same period, and its mining industry is down 16.5 percent. The state's per capita income is 20th among the states, but ranks 2.7 percent below the national average. The state's gross product is in decline having fallen to $22 billion from $23.9 billion in inflation adjust numbers since 1991. And further proof is that some 32,000 young Alaskans (aged 20-34) have left the state in the past eight years in search of higher paying employment.
That is particularly upsetting since the state's rural areas still suffer from enormous sanitation and health needs, estimated at more than $1.3 billion -- the state¹s rural, Native villages often sporting 19th Century water and sewer services. Forcing predominately Alaska Natives back into a lifestyle of government dependence for no justifiable reason shows a callous disregard for the aspirations of all Americans.
Myth: Opening the coastal plain would destroy the "biological heart" of the wildlife refuge. Fact: This is the most farfetched criticism of permitting oil exploration on parts of the 8 percent of the wildlife refuge that front the Arctic ocean. It assumes that opening the refuge would harm the Arctic Porcupine caribou herd. But the herd only moves into the area in about three of every 10 years and only from early June into July. The legislation pending would prevent any drilling or development activity during the caribou calving season to prevent any disruption to the herd. The real proof that the coastal plain could be opened without harm to wildlife and the environment is that Alaskan Eskimos have lived in the Far North for tens of thousands of years, surviving on the flat, treeless, generally barren and generally frozen coastal plain. Their culture is based on a deep reverence for the land. They depend not just on the caribou of the plain, but the whales of the offshore waters. The Eskimo inhabitants of Kaktovik, who depend on subsistence to eke out a living in the Far North, would not be the biggest supporters of oil exploration unless they were absolutely convinced from their experience at Prudhoe Bay that oil development can be done safely without harm to their land, the wildlife they depend on and their heritage. By a recent poll 78 percent of Kaktovik residents support development.
The legislation, introduced in the U.S. Senate to permit opening of the coastal plain, fully protects the environment. The stipulations include dozens of recommendations to the Secretary of the Interior that would encourage him to:
Adopt the environmental mitigation suggestions in the 1987 Environmental Impact Statement, designed to protect wildlife on the coastal plain.
Place seasonal limitations on exploration, development and related activities to avoid impacts on fish and wildlife, such as preventing surface disruptions during June and July, during the Porcupine caribou herd calving period.
Limit initial exploration efforts to between Nov. 1 and May 1 -- the Arctic winter -- to guarantee no impacts from exploration.
Require that all pipelines and roads minimize any effect on caribou.
Given the choice of exporting petro dollars and importing terrorism or paying more for gas at the pump. I wonder what the U.S. response would be?
How many U.S. lives should we be willing to sacrifice for cheap gas.
And then there is the question of the direct effect on the U.S. economy. How much has 9-11 cost the U.S. in lost jobs and fear based economic depression?
While the initial cost might be higher, I'm not certain about the long term costs.
The U.S. response is given to you every day of the week. Not just at the pump, but in every shopping mall in this country where people spent billions of dollars on imported goods.
Fran has stated that our state budget shortfall can't be solved by budget cuts. B.S. Just in the last two days I've run across two items in the local paper that are highly questionable.
$100,000 for a feasability study of a causeway from Anchorage to Fire Island.
Who in the hell goes to Fire Island? There is nothing there. And this is just for a study.
$150,000 for a water and sewer analysis and design for Funny River Road.
I live on Funny River Road and I don't want their blasted water and sewer or the added property taxes that go with them.
Maybe Fran could cut out some of that legislative travel to and from Juneau. Maybe that would save the state a buck or two.
I don't think enough of a case has been made in the liberal media of this country linking the continued funding of terrorists by OPEC nations and the high cost of domestically produced oil caused by the ecco-terrorists.
I try to avoid all products not produced in the U.S. but it is getting more difficult on a daily basis.
I couldn't agree more. They shut down the DOT maintenance station at Ninilchik last year. They did it mostly to punish Jerry Ward(local legislator) and his defense of the Permanent Fund. Fran can't wait to get her hands on our money.
While they were cutting the Ninilchik DOT station, they still had enough money to spend $300,000 redecortating the Governors mansion, and an additional $250,000 to build a new workout facility for the state legislators. I guess the local "Y" in Juneau isn't good enough for these elitists.
The State has cut DNR, eliminated State cadastral surveying, and made fresh offerings of homestead acreage impossible.
Yet less than one percent of our state is privately owned, and the environmentalists are concerned that we are destroying the state.
In a nutshell, Dave has it pegged. It makes no difference where the product is, the enviro-nazis will attack any extraction attempts with all their might; legal,illegal, political or whatever.
Their lies and distortions of the DIRE ecological damage caused by oil & gas exploration and production are without end. The goal is to force us into EXPENSIVE alternative renewables and they care not one whit about the consequences. Bear in mind that this philosophy fits the leftist/socialist agenda to a tee.
ANWR could replace Saudi imports for 20-25 years, but you'll never hear the lefist pussies who care so much about sending "our sons and daughters" to peril in the middle east over Iraq, mention that they will gladly send them there to protect the vital petro-supply lines. We have the ability to be almost self-sufficient, given no constraints on Alaskan production, offshore California and Florida, increased coal fired plants (200 year supply of coal) and increased usage of the CHEAPEST source of power--NUCLEAR. That'll never happen thanks to the enviro-nazis and their Hollywood support system.
One final note, have you all noticed how the democRATS are trying out voter fraud on South Dakota Indian reservations? Just remember how the RATS sold out the Native American tribe next to ANWR that was 100% for its development and would have gained immensely, with employment in high paying jobs, monetary boost to their local economy, etc., etc.
Could you explain this "vested interest" to those of us that are not so enlightened?
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