Oil drilling in the coastal strip in the Alaskan Arctic has been hotly contested for decades
By Summit Voice
SUMMIT COUNTY — Continuing to push for domestic energy production, House Republicans this week said they will introduce a bill that would open parts of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge for oil drilling.
Although the area was set aside for possible oil exploration in 1980, drilling is now generally opposed by a broad coalition of conservation groups, as well as populations of indigenous people in the region.
It is supported by a pro-development faction in Alaska and by oil companies, who have lobbied heavily for opening the area.
The Alaskan Energy for American Jobs Act is expected be part of the energy and infrastructure jobs bill announced by House Speaker John Boehner last week. The bill links expanded American energy production with initiatives to repair and improve infrastructure. Somewhat ominously, the House Natural Resources Committee promises the measure will “permanently removing barriers to private-sector growth.”
The oil available in the area is equal to about a six-month supply for the U.S. The measure is unlikely to find much support in the U.S. Senate.
In a press release, committee chair Doc Hastings, a Republican from Washington, said the measure could help jump start the sluggish economy.
“ANWR is a site that is easily accessible, has great potential and is one of America’s most highly concentrated areas of energy resources. Using less than three percent of ANWR’s acreage will produce billions of barrels of American made energy and generate billions of dollars,” he said.
Hastings also claimed oil drilling in ANWR would put tens of thousands of people to work, a highly unrealistic number.
Rep. Don Young, an Alaska Republican, said the measure would help fund the federal highway trust fund.
“This is a common sense plan. The revenue generated from drilling in ANWR will help keep the Highway Trust Fund from defaulting and will create jobs at the same time,” Young said.
The measure probably doesn’t much of a chance of passing the Senate. It would open less than 3 percent of ANWR’s 19 million acres in the North Slope, an area that was set aside by Congress and President Jimmy Carter for potential oil and natural gas development.
According to U.S. Geological Survey estimates, ANWR contains at least 10.4 billion barrel of oil and at peak production can yield more than 1.45 million barrels of oil per day—more than current daily U.S. imports from Saudi Arabia.
A political and social battle has been raging over the area for decades. The area in question is critical for wildlife. Biologists studying the area say existing activities already have disturbed the migration patterns and habits of the caribou herds. additional impacts could radically disrupt the indigenous way of life.