The question of whether to drill oil in the Arctic National wildlife Refuge (ANWR) or not to drill it at all has been one of the most controversial issues in the United States. Environmental conservationists hold one common view that, drilling oil in the ANWR will cause an irreversible damage to the wildlife since it is not yet clear whether this drilling will yield sufficient oil supplies to have any effect on the global oil prices, or even sustain the US oil demand. There have been controversies about oil drilling in the ANWR, here are some of the opposing views and proposing views about the arctic wildlife refuge oil drilling and some of the effects of oil drilling to the sustainable world.
Oil drilling in the ANWR has environmental consequences, no matter how accurate the drilling process may be. The environmental consequences are unacceptable since the value and the beauty of the environment and wildlife would be adversely affected (Easton, 2008, p. 120). Destroying the wildlife and the environment cannot match the value to be realized from the drilling, since it destroys the well being of the environment.
According to Easton (2008, p. 121), the luxury of private property can change one’s perspective when it comes to saving the environment and wildlife in which the use of private property should not be at the expense of its consequences on the environment. The US-based Audubon Society solely owns the Rainey Wildlife Sanctuary in Louisiana which enhances this theory through conservation of the ecosystem for fish, shrimp, crab, deer, ducks and other wading birds which make it look beautiful against the private developers around it. Therefore, it would be wrong to sacrifice this wildlife at the expense of other uses such as oil drilling, even though the sanctuary contains valuable reserves of oil and natural gas, which have over the years attracted the attention of oil drilling companies. This clearly shows that Audubon society’s interests and priority is not towards the exploitation of the oil and the natural gas. Proponents of oil drilling in the ANWR agree with the opponents that the animals in the region should not be interfered with. They argue that the benefits of oil in terms of money could be used to purchase other habitats so that the animals in the ANWR can be relocated.
It is evident that large utility vehicles and high powered cars run by petroleum are environmental hazards and their effect on the environment, alongside the environmental risks associated with oil drilling, explains why the society should totally oppose the drilling of oil in the ANWR. Permitting the drilling of oil in the ANWR shows that the society is taking care of the interests of those with fuel guzzling cars, therefore, risking the wildlife at the expense of producing more oil to be used by the fuel guzzling car engines.
The ANWR ecosystem houses some of the endangered species of animals such as the prairie chicken which the oil and natural gas drilling, if allowed in this area, should take into account including the risks likely to be caused by the oil drilling in the fragile environment. Some of the risks include air pollution, though some people argue that the gains of the drilling might justify risks. This can provide an opportunity to acquire an additional habitat or an alternative environment for the endangered species. It is important to protect the endangered species, but the oil drilling will cause air pollution hence causing respiratory diseases and even lung cancer to the endangered species (Cunningham, W and Cunningham M, 2008, p. 223). It is arguable that the ANWR is a treasure; but what people seem to forget is that other environments around the world where oil is drilled are also valuable treasures. There is urgent need to seize the opportunity and exploit the oil reserves. The benefits gained from more energy consumption would rise, and therefore help in realizing important environmental objectives.
On the contrary, high fuel prices in the global market have made the oil drilling issue in the ANWR a very important issue. The region contains large deposits of oil reserves, which if drilled, would help reduce governmental dependence on foreign reserves of oil in the Middle East. The Middle East oil reserves and its supply to the US and non-OPEC member states, are always disrupted by volatile politics in the region, which have made the US to seek its own reliable sources of energy to sustain its economy without relying on other sources. The question on many people’s minds therefore is: should it be at the expense of the environment?
Proponents further argue that the risks of oil drilling in the ANWR are far less than claimed by the environmentalists. They further say that there are modern techniques of pumping the waste back into the wells, therefore reducing the risk of oil spills on the environment. Technological drilling, for instance, the horizontal oil drilling is used in recovering oil reserves above the well head which usually reduces the chances of oil being spilled on the environment.
ANWR covers a total of close to 20 million acres of land, 2000 of which is thought to harbor the oil and natural gas (Easton, 2008, p. 126). These figures on the acreage should not make the environmentalists warn of danger to wildlife, since the vast majority of the ANWR acres will be completely unaffected by drilling.
The arguments opposing the drilling of oil in the ANWR do not make sense to the proponents as they state that the views opposing the oil drilling are just myths which do not have any basis. The proponents argue that about 10 billion barrels of oil are in the ANWR (Lieberman, 2005, p. 2), and that environmentalists have made it difficult to exploit the oil reserves. According to proponents of the drilling, environmentalists have been greatly misled by picture footages with snow-capped hills and mountains that they have been showing around; yet these hills and mountains are too far away to be affected by the drilling. Only about 2000 acres will be affected out of the massive twenty million, a very insignificant percentage.
In summary, the proponents of oil drilling in the ANWR argue that the proceeds from the oil exploration could dramatically reduce the oil prices in the US, leading to faster economic growth. Oil exploration would also lower US dependence on the Middle East oil, and drilling could be done carefully without disrupting or damaging wildlife and the environment in the region. Despite the views presented by the proponents on the possible importance of the oil drilling in the ANWR, the society comes into an agreement that the Arctic National Wildlife Reserves be preserved (Leiland, 2006. p. 9). Drilling oil in the region will not do much to improve the energy demands since there is limited possibility that the ANWR will not produce an equivalent amount of oil as Prudhoe Bay’s giant field. The best alternative to drilling oil is to exploit other sources of energy. The US government can also find other alternative energy sources rather than desperately sacrificing the wildlife. Energy sources such as nuclear energy, bio fuels, geothermal energy, hydroelectric energy, and solar power should be used.
There is no need to destroying the environment to fuel the engines. But even if there was a need to exploit the oil reserves, the drilling process should be done with care. The oil drilling companies should carry out the exercise in accordance with the existing laws on environment protection. Oil and gas exploration should only be allowed if it will cause no harm to the environment, and the wildlife habitats.
The Arctic Refuge’s marine and land mammals are close to 45 different species (Leiland, 2006, p. 53). The animal most characteristic of this area is the free roaming caribou. About thirty six fish species also reside in the Arctic refuge waters; in addition, one hundred and eighty species of birds live in the area (Leiland, 2006, p. 73).
To drill oil in this region would affect the efforts of environmental conservationists such as George Collins, Lowel Sumner, Olaus, and Mardy Murie who started the idea of conserving the in the early 1950s. These environmentalists launched massive campaigns to protect the area from environmental degradation (Leiland, 2006, p. 75). Oil drilling on this beautiful ecosystem cannot be justified whatsoever. The available oil at the ANWR, if any, would contribute very little to the US oil demand. It is better if the expected oil from the ANWR is replaced by cost effective alternatives such as bio-fuels. The ecosystem needs to be conserved and protected. The employment opportunities that can be created by drilling oil are overstated and cannot outweigh the importance of environmental conservation.
Environment conservation should not only be carried out in the ANWR region, but also in other ecosystems such as national forests and the national parks. Drilling oil in the region would take ten years, and there is therefore no need of experimenting and gambling with the environment for a barrel of oil (Corn, 2003, p. 38).
The consequences of oil drilling in the ANWR region outweigh the possible benefits that can be realized from the oil drilling. As stated earlier, American scientists should do thorough research to come up with alternative energy sources to supplement petroleum sources of energy. Just as the opponents have argued that the drilling of oil may not yield much progress, or it could take several decades before any significant amount of oil is found.
Oil drilling at the ANWR will definitely lead to global warming. Air pollution from the mining industries is likely to emit naturally occurring greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide, sulphur dioxide, methane and ozone gas. Industrial revolution in the ANWR and human activities will lead to increased amounts of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere.
The main cause of carbon dioxide emission in the world today is the burning of fossil fuels. Fossil fuel burning resulting from the drilled oil in the ANWR will produce and increase the amount of carbon dioxide. While debating whether or not oil drilling should be allowed in the ANWR, it should be remembered that any uncertain economic and technological developments in the region will lead to increased emission of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere. The greenhouse gases have dire consequences with regard to the climate changes in the world today. The ozone layer which is responsible for controlling the effects of these gases, no longer can function effectively due to increased amounts of the greenhouse gases emitted into the atmosphere. The ozone layer’s destruction by the greenhouse gases is the ultimate cause of global warming that is related to climate change, of prolonged droughts, hurricanes, and floods.
One of the questions that proponents of oil drilling in the ANWR should be prepared to answer is whether or not the benefits of the oil are more important than the conservation of the environment. It is evident that one cannot compare the value of the oil and the integrity of the wildlife and the possible consequences of oil drilling to human beings. The wildlife refuge should not be opened to oil drilling if at all there is a need to conserve the environment to curb global warming, which has led to several calamities in the world. Oil drilling in the ANWR has serious environmental consequences and should therefore not be allowed to continue.
One of the questions the proponents of oil drilling should be ready to address is, should the US drill oil in the ANWR or protect its beautiful wilderness? Answering this question is not easy to the proponents of oil drilling, since the answer depends on subjective values. How can people relate the use of more oil with their role of preserving the environment and the value of maintaining its value? Man has over the years made decisions on the environment at the expense of his comfort, convenience and material well-being. Whatever the reason behind environmental degradation, it is not justifiable. From the above arguments, it is evident that opening up ANWR for drilling has both its merits and demerits. However, the merits seem to be less than the demerits, making oil drilling in the refuge unjustifiable, and therefore not acceptable.
Corn, M. (2003). Arctic National wildlife refuge: Background and issues. Congressional research service, Alaska.
Cunningham, W. P. and Cunningham, M.A. (2008). Principles of environmental science: Inquiry and applications (Custom 5th ed.). New York: McGraw-Hill.
Easton, T. (2008). Taking sides: Clashing Views on Controversial Environmental Issues. (Custom 13th Ed.) New York: McGraw-Hill.
Leiland, B. (2006). Arctic national wildlife refuge, review, Controversies and legislation. Nora Science Publishers, Inc.
Lieberman, A. (2005). Myths About Drilling in ANWR “Environmental Science Article”. New York: Heritage foundation.