The following editorial was published Sept. 7 in the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner:
Exactly how many jobs would be created by opening the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to oil drilling? It depends on whom you ask.
National labor unions throwing their support to ANWR drilling have done so primarily on the assertion that it would cause major job growth. Unions and the oil industry claim that as many as 750,000 jobs would be created nationwide. That kind of job growth, the groups say, would be a major shot in the arm for the anemic American economy.
Environmental groups opposing ANWR drilling say those numbers are heavily inflated. Another study sponsored by the League of Conservation Voters and other green groups said Alaska drilling actually would create closer to 46,300 jobs an increase they say would have a negligible effect on our overall economy.
While labor and environmental factions fight it out through dueling studies and ads, the real fight is coming soon to the U.S. Senate. The Senate Energy Committee is expected to take up ANWR drilling in two weeks. With the recent announcement from Sen. Mary Landrieu, D-Louisiana, that she will break ranks with the Democrats to support drilling, it appears Sen. Frank Murkowski, ranking member on the committee, has the votes he needs to get the legislation out of committee and onto the Senate floor.
Numbers and statistics easily can be manipulated to prove just about any point, and the truth about potential job growth and the overall economic impact of drilling in ANWR probably lies somewhere in the middle of the two groups' claims.
The bottom line is that opening ANWR will create job growth, although exactly how much remains to be seen. It will help reduce America's growing dependency on foreign oil, which is not just an economic issue but also a national security issue. It will mean fewer gallons of oil are shipped on foreign-flagged tankers, and that means safer transport.
Above all, opening ANWR will extend the life of the oil industry in Alaska, and there is no doubt that is good economic news for Alaska.