The coastal plain of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge should be open to careful oil and gas exploration. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has heard considerable testimony in favor of wilderness designation for the coastal plain, also known as the 1002 area. If adopted, wilderness status would put the coastal plain permanently off limits.
That's the wrong choice.
Why? The coastal plain likely contains anywhere from 6 billion to 16 billion barrels of recoverable oil and trillions of cubic feet of natural gas.
For Alaska's economy, the gain is obvious. We'd keep exploration and development going, keep the trans-Alaska pipeline operating at high capacity, provide jobs, maintain the state treasury for public services like education and continue healthy deposits into the Permanent Fund, our long-term savings account.
For the nation, production from ANWR would mean more of our oil would come from domestic sources. Producing more of our own energy from all sources is a national priority with bipartisan support. In this context, ANWR makes sense if we pursue a national strategy that makes the most of our fossil fuel reserves while in the long term reducing our dependence on all oil, foreign and domestic. Otherwise we'll just burn our way back to a dangerous dependence.
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