Is It Time to Drill in the Arctic Refuge?
The Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, commonly known as ANWR, is a 19-million acre national wildlife preserve in northeast Alaska. The United States Geological Survey estimates that there could be anywhere between 7.7 and 11.8 billion barrels of technically recoverable oil underneath the surface of the refuge.
The drilling controversy in ANWR centers on a specific, 1.5 million acre area on the northern coastal plain known as the 10-02 area. While this area comprises a relatively small part of the whole refuge, it contains an important calving ground for Porcupine caribou, which have been a significant part of the lives of native Alaskans in the area for thousands of years.
In 1977, the Trans-Alaska Pipeline System was completed, and conservationists began a campaign to keep oil prospecting out of ANWR. Three years later, President Jimmy Carter signed the Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act, which designated 104 million acres in Alaska as national parks and wildlife refuge. The act allowed for drilling in ANWR, but not without Congress’s approval first. The Exxon-Valdez spill temporarily derailed potential drilling in ANWR in 1989, but seven years later the Republican-majority House and Senate voted to allow drilling in the refuge. President Clinton vetoed the bill, but the battle over ANWR raged on in Congress throughout the next decade with President George W. Bush pushing to perform exploratory drilling in the area.
Rapidly rising energy costs and a weak economy have caused Congress to again investigate the possibility of drilling in ANWR. Is it time to starting drilling in the Arctic Refuge? Here is the Debate Club’s take:
Corrected on 11/04/11: An earlier version of this article misstated the estimate of how much technically recoverable oil is under the surface of the Arctic Refuge. The United States Geological Survey estimates that there is anywhere between 7.7 and 11.8 billion barrels of technically recoverable oil underneath refuge.