More Drilling in Alaska
400,000 acres of Alaska’s North Slope may be opened for oil exploration by the Bureau of Land Management.
This land has been protected since the early 1980s because of caribou and migratory birds. The protections were first put in place more than 20 years ago by that well known tree hugger, Ronald Reagan.
The National Petroleum Reserve-Alaska comprises 22 million acres; most of it is open to oil development. The lake region in the northeastern corner is the area that’s been protected. The Bureau of Land Management has now concluded that these 400,000 acres should be opened for exploratory drilling “with restrictions.”
Interior Secretary Gale Norton is expected to sign the agreement with the BLM next week. (The National Petroleum Reserve-Alaska is not to be confused with the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, whose fate has been debated and fought over in Congress since 2001. This debate will undoubtedly get more contentious than ever during this session of Congress.)
Environmental groups, including the Wilderness Society and Ducks Unlimited, are fighting to continue protection of the lake region, pointing out that most of the 22 million acres of the NPRA are already available for oil exploration.
Slight improvements in gasoline mileage (not to mention making buildings more energy efficient, and increased use of mass transit) would more than equal the amount of oil that’s being fought over. Yet whenever Congress brings up any of these conservation measures, Republicans turn the whole concept of energy efficiency into the most trivial, wimpy issue imaginable. Then, when the debate turns to whether we should drill for oil in a protected area, our energy dependence becomes synonymous with Osama bin Laden and the World Trade Center, and the name-calling begins.