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Sept. 30, 2005

The answer to our energy crisis is not in Alaska

by Mary Donahue, Online Managing Features Editor
While it is painful to look at the gas pump these days, we may indirectly benefit from $3 to $4 gas prices. In response, people may start to walk more and consider alternative energy sources, such as hybrid vehicles, over gas-guzzling SUVs. But these environmentally beneficial changes are futile if we just use the rise in gas prices as an excuse to drill for oil in Alaska.

When Hurricane Katrina hit the Gulf Coast, it destroyed not only many lives but also the energy infrastructure that accounts for 28 percent of the oil found in the United States. Already, the idea is circulating that drilling in the Arctic Coastal Plains, located in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, will relieve the tension caused by this energy crisis.

Created in 1953, the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge is home to more than 45 species of land and marine mammals, 36 species of fish and over 180 species of birds. Drilling in the Arctic would endanger the lives of these animals, as well as eight million acres of wilderness, which include rivers, valleys, canyons, lakes and a rock mesa that has been designated a National Natural Landmark.

The drilling would take place on one of the last untouched sections of the Arctic Coastal Plains. According to the National Commission on Energy Policy it would take at least 10 years and cost $8 billion to complete the drilling and build a pipeline that would transport the oil. One plan proposes cutting through the Porcupine Caribou calving grounds and, according to the Alaska Coalition of Oregon, the predicted oil spill per day would severely contaminate the Beaufort Sea.

Also, drilling will encourage the use of fossil fuels for energy. It is well known that burning fossil fuels is linked to global warming, which increases the rate at which the polar ice caps melt. Drilling for oil will only the increase the rate at which this fragile part of our world is being destroyed.

The amount of oil that is in Alaska does not merit the destruction of the wilderness. According to a report released by the World Resources Institute, the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge Coastal Plain may only contain six months of oil for Americans to use and will not change this country's overwhelming dependency on foreign oil.

Instead of spending $8 billion on oil drilling in Alaska, Americans should invest it in research on alternative energy methods. Already there have been significant advances made in both hydrogen and solar energy. Hybrid cars are sweeping the market and offer a more energy efficient option for car buyers. The Toyota Prius gets up to 51 miles per gallon, compared to the 23 miles per gallon the popular Toyota Camry gets. If Americans would raise the standard miles per gallon in their cars by one mile, in one year, we would save twice the amount of oil that could be obtained from the Arctic.

Is it really worth disturbing one of the last pieces of untouched, untamed land for six months of gas?



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  • Anarchist on September 30, 2005 at 3:41 PM
    Because clearly, scenery is more important than living.

    This same article could have been written in 1650 about Manhattan Island! Or in 1840 about Sacramento! "Europe is so built up...there won't be any gain from building a city so far away...why spoil the wilderness?" Why? Because now, it's home to umpteen million people!

    While I think drilling in Alaska is probably a bad idea, I think that "the land looks so pretty" is not any defense at all.
  • Naod Yiman on September 30, 2005 at 6:07 PM
    I am not supporting either side of the argument. Good Article.

    Global Warming is a myth
    Lets face it, there is no way that all Americans as a people will stop buying gas guzzling SUVs and fast cars for cars that are ugly. Solar Energy, and Hydrogen will never be widespread. Hydrogen is too dangerous to put in a car no matter how safe it supposedly is.
  • Naod Yiman (View Email) on September 30, 2005 at 6:16 PM
    This is a good article, and I am supporting neither side in this argumen

    Okay, so drilling in Alaska can kill many animals. The alternatives are never going to be accepted by many people. That is why they are alternatives. Most people would rather have the gas guzzling SUVs than the compact, slow moving hybrids. Another thing is that there is no way that solar energy and hydrogen will be accepted either. Hydrogen in any form, put into a moving object is dangerous no matter how safe it is supposed to be. Also if Americans did raise the standard miles per gallon by one mile, they would still be using gas so either way there would still be the topic of drilling in Alaska
  • Naod Yiman (View Email) on September 30, 2005 at 6:17 PM
    Sorry, i did not see that it takes a while to post
  • RU on October 3, 2005 at 10:26 AM
    I think the author's statistics should be questioned...I read in a Washington Post article about six months ago that it's far more than six months of gas...

    Even so, let's say it is six months of gas. The author herself states that US dependence on oil won't dissipate if we drill; common sense dictates that our dependence won't dissipate if we don't. So either way, we're in a bind, but if we drill, it's not as much of a bind (again, I'm questioning the 6 months figure...it's somewhat speculative).

    The author also supports hybrid cars, which are only a surface solution. In the long-term, they're more damaging to the environment because they're made with heavy metals like lead and mercury.

    Drilling in Alaska certainly won't solve this country's energy woes, but not drilling for the sake of some caribou doesn't make much sense to me.
  • Daniel Bates '01 (View Email) on October 3, 2005 at 12:38 PM
    Anarchist - so why do we designate and protect National Parks? Do aesthetic resources have no value?

    Good article. The problem at this point is not one of economic, security, or ecological realities. ANWR has become a proxy for the battle between environmental interests and economic interests. Neither side wants to back down, even though it's an issue which is long past its time of relevancy.
  • Joel Turnham on October 3, 2005 at 2:50 PM
    I think that this article is good, but could be much better. Go into detail about what could be done to solve the current fuel problem, such as explain how a hydrogen car would work and would actually not necessarily be dangerous. For anyone who cares enough, there is a lot of information on hydrogen cars and hydrogen fuel cells on Wikipedia.com
  • reason on October 3, 2005 at 9:12 PM
    look, the US is not financially stable enough to considering drilling. the expense of rebuliding the south after two hurricanes will be billions of dollars and we don't even know if we have enough to support that.
  • garrugle on October 6, 2005 at 7:10 PM
    instead of a bunch of one-sided, reptitive, incomplete opinions, could SCO do a really nice big one about all and everything about gas and drilling and alternative fuel sources? no one ever says, except RU, that hybrid cars aren't actually all that great. someone please go against the grain and do this again and do it right! if you're gonna keep writing about gas, write about all of it. isn't there some in the ocean or something?
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