NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis


February 1, 2005

Environmental groups get queasy at the thought of drilling for oil in the pristine Alaskan wilderness, especially in Alaska's North Slope, a reserve established in 1923 for national emergencies. But evidence from existing drilling projects in the country show that oil production and the environment peacefully co-exist, according to Investor's Business Daily (IBD).

Drilling projects in Alaska and Louisiana have produced substantial oil supplies with little impact on the environment, says IBD:

  • The caribou population near Alaska's Prudhoe Bay (which provides 20 percent of domestic oil production) has increased from 3,000 to over 27,000 in 30 years.
  • For almost 60 years, several federal wildlife refuges in Louisiana have been home to 1,605 oil wells, with few adverse effects.
  • Oil exploration currently takes place in some 29 federal wildlife refuges.

Alaska's North Slope in the National Petroleum Reserve (NPRA) is estimated to contain 2 billion barrels of oil and 3.5 trillion cubic feet of natural gas. While the NPRA serves as a molting area for wild geese and calving by caribou, the Bureau of Land Management concludes that development there will have "minimal impact" on wildlife.

Furthermore, advocates of drilling in the Alaskan National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR) argue that although the area is the size of North Carolina, the actual drilling area is only the size of Delaware (although it contains about 10.3 billion barrels of oil). A development "footprint" in ANWR would be comparatively small, says IBD.

Source: Editorial, "Heeding the Call of the Wild," Investor's Business Daily, January 27, 2005.


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