After reading the article about Gale Norton signing a plan to open up 8.8 million acres of Alaska to oil and gas development, my mind once again turns to ANWR and the oil drilling debate. When will the truth be told? I once supported drilling in Alaska, until I did a little research and uncovered some rather interesting facts.
According to Mrs. Norton's plan, 6 billion to 13 billion barrels of oil could possibly be retrieved from the 8.8 million acres. This, in conjunction with ANWR's estimated 6 billion to 16 billion barrels of oil, adds up to no more than 29 billion barrels of oil. It should be noted that these estimates are according to a "neutral" federal agency.
Knowing the United States annually uses no less than 7 billion barrels per year, one can easily compute the longest this oil will last is around four years. On the short end of the scale, maybe two years. Yes, with simple math, the facts start to become clear. This hardly makes the United States independent from foreign oil. Also, the oil will not hit the U.S. market for at least nine years and when it does it will not lower costs at the fuel pumps. Additionally, the environmental impact drilling will have on such a fragile ecosystem is hard to measure. All we can be sure of is the impact will be negative.
There are no benefits to caribou being rerouted from their migration routes and having to trudge through oil-soaked tundra, or a mother polar bear and newborn cubs being violently awaken from their slumber and ousted from the security of their warm den, or the many other tribulations Alaska's wildlife will have to face. The only benefits to drilling is some temporary revenue and some temporary jobs. Note the keyword temporary.
The damage done to the ecosystem will not be so temporary. Instead of depleting Alaska's energy resources, we (the United States) should explore ways in which to conserve energy. Better emissions requirements and better fuel efficient vehicles would save millions of barrels of oil each day, thus eliminating the need to harm the pristine Alaskan wilderness. Those are just a couple of ideas of long-term solutions for a long-term problem. More importantly, these solutions are beneficial to all parties involved, the government, the United States citizens, the Alaska wilderness and all it's inhabitants. There are alternatives to drilling. Think about it!
Sally Ann Cavanaugh