Opening ANWR To Oil Exploration Would Help Consumers Without Hurting Environment

Drilling for Billions of Barrels of Oil Would Require Using Mere .1 percent of ANWR’s 19 Million Acres

The environmental movement’s opposition to President George W. Bush’s vow to open Alaska’s Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR) to oil exploration ignores the history of ecologically safe oil drilling in Alaska and the considerable benefit that ANWR’s vast oil reserves would be to an energy-deprived America, according to a new National Policy Analysis paper by the National Center For Public Policy Research.

Environmentalists contend that oil exploration would turn ANWR into a vast landscape of unsightly derricks, roads and pipelines that would irreparably harm the refuge’s scenic attractions. Environmentalists also claim that oil drilling poses unacceptable risks to the polar bears, caribou and other ANWR wildlife.

But according to National Policy Analysis paper #324, "Environmentalists’ Opposition to Oil Exploration in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge is Unfounded," it is possible to drill for oil in ANWR without hurting the refuge’s environment. First, only a very small amount of land is needed for oil production. At Prudhoe Bay on Alaska’s North Slope, 60 miles west of ANWR, companies are recovering 1.4 million barrels of oil per day. Yet, drilling rigs, production facilities and gravel roads cover only two percent of the 250,000 acre Prudhoe Bay field. Due to advances in drilling technology since the development of the North Slope in the 1970s, oil companies would only use as little as 2,000 acres of the 19 million acre ANWR to recover huge amounts of oil, estimated to be as much as 16 billion barrels.

Second, strict federal laws are already in place that require companies to protect wildlife during oil and gas operations on federal land. For example, the Marine Mammals Protection Act protects the polar bears in the North Slope oil fields. Since oil drilling started more than 20 years ago, not a single polar bear has been killed or injured due to operations at Prudhoe Bay. Likewise, there is little reason to fear that caribou at ANWR would be harmed given that the Prudhoe Bay caribou herd has actually grown in size since the 1970s.

"The fact that not one species of animals on the North Slope has been listed as endangered after years of drilling says a great deal about the safety of allowing oil exploration in ANWR," says John Carlisle, director of the Environmental Policy Task Force and the author of the paper. "Responsible development of ANWR would reduce foreign oil imports by millions of barrels per day and lessen U.S. dependence on the whims of OPEC. It’s time for environmentalists to do the right thing for America and stop opposing ANWR oil exploration."

The Environmental Policy Task Force is a project of The National Center For Public Policy Research, a non-partisan, non-profit education foundation.

For more information, contact John Carlisle at The National Center For Public Policy Research at 202-507-6398 or [email protected] or download the paper at the National Center’s website at

The National Center for Public Policy Research is a communications and research foundation supportive of a strong national defense and dedicated to providing free market solutions to today’s public policy problems. We believe that the principles of a free market, individual liberty and personal responsibility provide the greatest hope for meeting the challenges facing America in the 21st century.