Despite Renewed Political Pressure, Case for Drilling in ANWR Getting Weaker

In response to soaring gas prices and increasing pressure to shore up all potential domestic petroleum reserves, environmentalists are re-launching campaigns to protect the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge from development. And several branches of the federal government are making environmentalists" case a little easier, despite the wishes of the Commander in Chief.

A recent federal Energy Information Administration study, requested by proponents of drilling, indicates that even if the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge were opened to drilling today, the U.S. would still be importing more than 60 percent of its oil, only three percent less than if the Refuge remained protected. The study states that OPEC would likely countermand any potential price impact of oil from the Arctic Refuge by reducing its exports an equal amount. Meanwhile, the U.S. Geological Survey has determined that drilling in ANWR would produce only six months worth of oil that would take 10 years to reach market.

In related news, Alaska Governor Frank Murkowski said last week he will authorize oil drilling in state waters within three miles of ANWR. Inupiat Eskimos of the North Slope say any oil development in state waters in the Arctic would come at the expense of three special no-leasing zones established to protect whales, the Native whale hunt and a variety of wildlife. In the past, the Inupiat have supported drilling operations on Alaska’s North Slope, and stand to profit from development on ANWR lands. The whale holds a special place in the cultural and subsistence lives of Eskimos, though, so any move which could threaten the whales would not be condoned by Inupiat leaders.

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