The answer to our energy crisis is not in Alaska

Sept. 30, 2005, midnight | By Mary Donahue | 18 years, 8 months ago

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?

Mary Donahue. Mary Donahue is an 11th grade, vegetarian Honors student who is addicted to sugar. Whatever free time she can find is quickly swallowed up by Doback, "her" horse, or her crazy friends, with whom she scares mortals. She isn't happy unless she is moving, which … More »

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