Issue Position: ANWR
The Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR) encompasses some 19 million acres in the Northeast corner of Alaska, far north of the Arctic Circle. The area is comparable in many ways with Prudhoe Bay, currently North America's largest oil field. Studies indicate that between nearly 6 and 16 billion barrels of recoverable oil likely exist in the area - one of the largest oil finds yet to be discovered in the world. Studies also indicate that the oil can be extracted by directly impacting less than 2,000 acres of the coastal plain, just one tenth of one percent of the coastal plain inside the refuge.
While ANWR would provide significant oil to the nation for three decades, helping our energy security, cutting our balance of payments deficit and providing jobs and billions of tax revenues to the federal treasury, opening ANWR also would help Alaskans by providing jobs, tax revenues, and the oil needed to extend the life of the Trans-Alaska Oil Pipeline. It is not surprising that polls show that more than seven out of 10 Alaskans support its opening. The United States must take a balanced approach to lessening our dependence on unstable foreign energy sources, and environmentally responsible exploration in the coastal plain should be part of that approach.
I certainly agree that development should not harm Alaska's natural environment or wildlife. The state's beauty is one of our greatest attributes and I will always fight for responsible development that respects our environment and our traditional way of life. I believe development can occur in ANWR, however, without damage because of advances in technology in the Arctic. New types of winter seismic exploration, new advances in directional drilling that allows wells to be drilled farther from single, smaller well pads, advances in ice road construction, and new advances in pipeline monitoring systems all allow oil and wildlife to co-exist without harm to the environment.
Development of ANWR could not come at a more apt time. Opening the refuge would save almost $33 billion a year from going to buy foreign oil imports. This past year oil prices broke $100 a barrel for the first time. All of us have experienced the economic pain that high oil prices are causing. The only way to stop energy costs from rising is to promote alternative energy and energy conservation, but also to produce more domestic oil and natural gas where we can. While opening ANWR will not solve all our energy needs, it will certainly lessen future price spikes and provide for our nation's economic and military security.