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Wednesday, 8 August, 2001, 08:05 GMT 09:05 UK
Should the US drill in a wildlife refuge?
The US House of Representatives has approved a controversial energy bill, which opens the way for oil drilling in Alaska's Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.
The plan, which has yet to be passed by the Senate, has been condemned by environmental groups who say drilling could damage the fragile ecosystem there.
But the Bush administration insists that drilling in the refuge is vital for curbing US dependence on oil imports and solving the country's energy crisis.
President Bush says the operation can be accomplished "in an environmentally friendly way".
Do you think the US should drill in a wildlife refuge? Should the country's priority be dealing with its energy crisis?
This debate is now closed. Read a selection of your comments below.
There are no alternatives and neither Gore nor anyone else cannot come up with any. I suggest that people who throw out street-talk listen more. The money it seems would rather be used for endless projects that offer nothing at the moment. There simply are no alternatives to use and no one can name any yet that even make sense. Global Warming may in part be from people protesting, hating, and street-talking.
Müfit Bolgil, UK
Instead of drilling in the Arctic, there should be emphasis on alternative fuels such as gasohol, alcohol powered cars, battery powered car, etc.
I think it is a great idea. Alaska is very rich with oil but it is oil that cannot be tapped into because we do not want to touch a small portion of a large refuge. I get tired of people giving in to environmental extremism. Yes we need to preserve our wonderful lands and I agree that we should not drill everywhere in Alaska where there is oil. Alaska is our biggest state in size and the park is huge. I guess I am one who realises that America is not Europe and public transit does not work here like it does in Europe. Our land is huge and people are more spread out. We like our cars but we do not want to get the gas, does that make a lot of sense? It does not to me.
Everyone agrees that this is being done because of the escalating demand for cheap oil in the USA, which theoretically should lead to lower world oil prices and more money for the oil companies to invest in alternative sources of energy. All sounds fine and dandy except that nobody knows how near the brink of causing irreparable climate change or exhausting world oil supplies we really are. The irony is that if we are closer than we think (or indeed choose to believe) the US will suffer disproportionately more than the rest of the world. How will Bush fulfil his sacred duty of "looking out for Americans" then, by commandeering scarce oil resources from anywhere as he sees fit?
I think it is a wonderful idea to drill on the 2000 acres in Alaska. Of course that only leaves something like 17,000,000 acres they won't be drilling on. Oh the horror - how will the wildlife survive? Quite frankly, most of the environmentalist wackos are absolutely clueless about Alaska, energy policies and oil reserves. I say we not only drill the wells, we shoot some of the wildlife to feed the drillers.
D. Tyler, England
Quite honestly, it's mind numbing that Bush is going ahead with this drilling. Not only will we not see a drop of the oil for years, but it will only last the US for a few months. Rather than destroying a pristine refuge and land sacred to native peoples who rely on the caribou, Bush should be looking for alternative energy sources. This is just another perfect example of Bush's idiocy and further proof that his only concern is that big business is happy. I don't understand why Bush thinks further destroying the environment and committing cultural genocide - something that I thought America had put behind it - is even a reasonable option. This will in no way affect our reliance on foreign oil and anyone who thinks so is as naive as President Bush is stupid.
Jim Weidner, USA
I was born in Anchorage, and I'm afraid of another oil spill like the Exxon Valdez.
In an earlier post Mick B, UK, asks "If, with modern technology, drilling can be done without damaging the environment, why have they made such a mess of Texas?" Um.. have you ever BEEN to Texas? I live in Houston and believe me, it's paradise. Do a little research before you make inaccurate comments.
I think I'm speaking for most of the 160 million citizens who did not vote for Bush when I say, "Watch and see. It will be a short 4yrs." How much damage can one do in that time?
Tom from Australia, what a depressing view you have of the world and its people. So humans should be nothing more than unthinking producers and mindless consumers? While the Earth and its resources are merely there to be exploited ruthlessly? In other words we should cease to be sentient beings and become robots? To my mind, this attitude sums up all that is wrong with this wasteful, unsustainable consumer society. If things carry on at this rate our world will soon become a grey desert devoid of all beauty: a planet no longer worth living on.
Robert, Ontario, Canada
Drilling for oil in Alaska is one of the ways the US
is proposing to deal with its energy problem.
I don't recall the Americans complaining when Britain drilled in the
The people of Alaska are generally in favour.
The Alaskan Wildlife Refuge should not be sacrificed for a temporary solution to the energy needs of the US. This area is pristine and beautiful - a national treasure. It should remain untouched. Hands off, Mr Bush. Do not let this be your legacy.
Although a global boycott of US goods seems a retaliatory measure for irresponsible behaviour, let's not forget that this nation does NOT depend on exports. Instead it thrives on over-consumption, something corporate America has had adequate success achieving. As fatalistic as this may sound, the nation is in a vicious cycle of consumerism created all on its own. Until the GOP stops trying to satisfy the oil companies' never ending quench for profits, no matter how loud the rest of the world screams, the Americans will continue to do as they please.
President Bush is looking out for Americans and the rest of the world by allowing this drilling. As the United States begins to reduce its dependence on foreign oil, oil prices will begin to drop world wide including the UK. By doing this, American companies can profit and invest more resources into alternative fuel sources that will ensure their financial future and provide environmentally sound alternatives and lower energy prices to the rest of the world.
Bob Ezergailis, Canada
It seems to me that the US government is becoming increasingly desperate to find more internal sources of oil. This is because the US is not nearly self-sufficient on a commodity its culture and economy depend upon so heavily. If the drill goes ahead in the ANWR, it will only provide a short respite from the shortage and is therefore only a short term fix, and a very partial one at that. A long term solution for all the world's citizens would be to try and use less oil and move onto other power sources, or when the use of oil is essential (i.e. in automobiles) to use cars which are more fuel efficient (no SUV's).
I guess Mr Bush doesn't believe in the benefits that the free market will bring. So what if oil prices go up? That will curb consumption and be good for everybody in the long run. Besides, jobs lost in his buddies' oil companies will be replaced with jobs in other industries. The current American government is just being extra self-centred, self-interested and selfish.
I'm sad to see so many misinformed judgements here. I wonder how many of the opinion writers here realize the vast enormity of Alaska. Do they realize the miniscule area of the wild life refuge that is being allowed to be drilled in? Do they realise that to call it a tourist area is in error? I think not. I also believe that if they are really truly worried about Artic areas being polluted they only have to look at their neighbour's, the Russians, they have no open debate about how their areas are to be set aside for wildlife. No discussion on oil drilling in those areas. And definitely not even close to the safe guards any oil project in the US operates under. Oil drilling in the North Sea is far more risky and potentially economically damaging than what will occur in Alaska. Most of all I wonder how many people giving their opinion here have either been to Alaska, will ever go to Alaska or know any Alaskans. I have been there many times, it is a huge expanse and home to the most environmentally conscious populations on earth.
Kelvin Law, Singapore
Yes, we have to drill. The drilling would take place in a very small portion of the wildlife reserve. If people cared as much for human life as they do for animals the world would be better. It is time the US pulled out of the UN.
It is in cases such as this that the media can, but usually fail to, play an important role. A similar debate took place Lo! These many years ago when Prudhoe Bay and the Alaska Pipeline were first mooted about. There must be some sound science on the environmental effects of these developments: How have they affected the caribou, the permafrost, etc.
Drilling in an Arctic refuge is not the solution to the energy crisis. There may not be much oil in Alaska and even so, the world's supply of oil is expected to run out in less than 100 years. Now is the time to start developing alternative energy sources.
To quote John Passacantando of Greenpeace, USA: "Alaska will never be open for oil." The Senate will not pass this plan to drill in Alaska. You can bet your bottom dollar that lobbyists from all concerned groups will now descend upon the Senate members and bring the majority view, which unheeded will be very, very unpopular. Watch out for the movie "Ice Wars".
With a country that consumes nearly 85% of the world's resources, it is disheartening to see that it continues to reign champion to a title like that. Forget oil, just look around at the blatant abuse of other resources. It has the highest capita production of non-biodegradable trash than any other country in the world. We might not see the immediate impact of our actions because the average American lives in an urban maze deprived of a visual picture of our ecosystem. But visualise yourself buried in the amount of trash you throw out of your house each year... unappealing huh?? So is the idea of drilling in a refuge like ANWR. Looking for ways to reduce consumption and recycling is the only way out. Encouraging this kind of behaviour is the prime example of what kind of beaurocracy we don't need... people who make decisions within the confines of their multimillion homes, not having spent a day in the midst of a wildlife preserve.... and we vote for them.... ironic isn't it?
Last I checked ANWAR is located in the State of Alaska. Why is this a global, or even national issue?
Once again dictator Bush caters to his big business backers by not paying any heed to the voice of the people. He does not seem to consider other alternate energy sources. He will not rest until all our pristine lands have been drilled. The worst anti-environmental president in our history.
Of course Bush is wrong (again) and I agree with Jim Young. Let's boycott American products which are produced with no regard to the ecology planet!
Tom Smith, UK in NL
Do Americans not realise that by delaying the development of alternative power sources will only give them very short-term gains, where as countries that are investing in developing the technologies now will have major commercial advantages in the longer term?
What is the point of a sanctuary if it is then violated by such exploitation, even having permanent settlements in such sensitive areas can have a detrimental impact on both the environment and wildlife.
No No No. Invest that money in public transport infrastructure, education, and energy efficient buildings and appliances. There IS another solution. And in the mean time, how about restricting the size of city centre parking slots so that giant SUVs will be used for those off-road adventures and not for the daily run.
We need energy supplies, so we should drill wherever sources of oil are likely to be found.
The concept of wilderness is out of touch with the real world. It only distracts people with romantic notions, when they should be being productive or consuming to help the economy grow.
It is irrelevant whether modern engineering can exploit the Arctic cleanly or not. It is symbolic of America's lack of environmental awareness or willingness to appreciate that there is in fact a 'bit of a problem'. Although not an "activist" by any standard, I do my best for the environment and I can see how passionately people feel about it. America refusing to be part of the Kyoto agreement was a sad day for all of us. Arctic drilling will provoke environmental activists to a level not before seen.
The people who are against drilling in ANWR are the same whiners who are against drilling anywhere. But isn't it a bit hegemonic of Americans to expect all the other nations of the world to risk pollution and oil spills in search of the oil we need? We need oil to sustain our standard of living, so why not use our oil? There is plenty of oil in the ANWR, and most Americans will never even go to Alaska, let alone its most remote spot. Let's drill for oil there. It would be fairer to the rest of the world and we'd never notice anyway.
The answer to the problem posed by the oil companies is for George Bush and Mr Cheney to go back to their ranches in Texas. America voted to keep the sacred land of Alaska pristine. Mr Gore promised to do that. President Clinton made a contribution to our land. But, we have no way to stop the rape of the land. So, the world will be affected by this. Global warming, the Kyoto Protocol we all support. But, not Mr Bush. The only reasonable answer for our world is to protect the environment from profiteers in the GOP. Return the country to the people as it was. Send the GOP home.
Get a grip, people. Alaska is 570,374 square miles against the UK's 94,248. That is, it's six times as large as the UK. You couldn't even find a drilling platform if you knew where to look. How can a tiny drilling community have any impact on an area six times larger than Britain?
No, most definitely they should not be allowed to drill. This is the thin end of a wedge to open up a resource of easy profits. The US does not have a real energy crisis. If it did, it should look to un-capping many of the wells in Texas. Having been associated with this industry and lived in Texas, I know these exist.
M Sharma, Bhutan
Bush has been in it for the power from the very beginning. Obviously, if he really cared about liberating the US from its dependency on other countries for its oil supply, he would be supporting a long-term alternative and not some harebrained plan for short-term relief. Since he barely won the Presidency and without even winning the popular vote he should have had the sense to tread lightly. Loss of the Republican majority Senate should have warned him of this.
Whether we drill in the preserve or not I fail to see how it is anyone in the world's business but our own.
Ken, UK and Brazil
My father has been in the oil business over 35 years, according to him there is more than enough oil, and the gas reserves keep regenerating themselves. Why don't we use gas?? It's a clean-burning fuel after all. Also is it just me, or are the Americans having a new argument with the rest of the world on a weekly basis ?
President Bush is merely looking at short-term gains which may benefit the economy. What it leaves behind will be irreparable damage to the Arctic circle. And his claim of "environmentally friendly" measures for drilling merely shows his ignorance regarding this issue.
I think the drilling should proceed for two reasons. First is that, as I understand it, through angled drilling technology, the area to be drilled near the centre of the wildlife preserve is only a few square miles in size compared to the entire size of the preserve, which is about the size of the state of Virginia. Second reason is that we need to produce oil in the USA to avoid having to buy it at monopolistic prices. Having to pay the higher import prices for oil costs workers in the USA jobs, due to other expenses of production being higher. I am old enough to remember, and people in the UK should understand also about unemployment and underemployment.
Michael Thomas, UK
This decision just sums up corporate America. What big business says happens. There is no other bigger business in America than the Oil business. What do you expect from a President and a Vice-President who is closely connected with the Oil industry. Why are people so surprised about this decision.
Spy plane in China, Kyoto, Death Penalty, Missile Defence, Germ warfare and now oil in nature reserves. The new Bush regime has all the foresight and diplomacy of a herd of wilder beast.
The USA as a whole has no decent infrastructure for public transportation. The car industry and the oil industry have between them exerted an overwhelming influence over the political and geographical landscape. LA used to have one of the world's best and cleanest public transportation systems until it was bought up by the car industry and left to rot. Every town built over the past 70-odd years has been built to accommodate cars, not pedestrians and cyclists. The result is that many of us are trapped in the situation of not being able to walk or cycle anywhere (there being no pavements or cycle lanes), having no access to buses, and are forced to get in the car to travel a couple of miles.
As for the culture as a whole, Americans will always refuse to moderate their habits in order to save the environment (this country is so massive that it's easy to forget that those enormous forests aren't endless); to end sweatshop labour (it's called free trade); or because of enlightened self-interest (the whole point is to exercise your personal liberty through over-consumption).
It's not that people are stupid, but rather that it is easy to be insular when your country's so enormous and contact with foreign cultures is rare; how can we blame people for being isolationist when they know nothing else?
Why is drilling in Alaska suddenly an issue for the BBC, when
oil companies have been exploiting pristine environments in the
Third World for decades? Is a wildlife refuge in the West more important than its counterparts in other parts of the world?
With modern technology, it is amazing how companies can carry out complex engineering works without damaging the environment. If the oil companies think they can extract oil from underneath the polar bears' noses without causing any environmental damage I think they should go for it. Without scientists inventing innovative solutions to complex problems our world will not survive. Let's hear it for the people who do these things.
No, there should be no drilling there. Instead we need to learn to drive vehicles that weigh less than 2000kg, and start using appliances that don't use more energy than a small city. After installing a "flash" water heater (it heats the water only when it's needed, keeping only a small amount hot at any time), I've cut my gas bill in half, and it heats more reliably. When will people here learn?
Drilling in Alaska should proceed. However even the richest fields in the National Wildlife Refuge cannot meet America's demand. U.S. should return to the nuclear power, especially in the view of the progress made in the meantime in the area of atomic reactors. Nuclear power is here to stay especially with the prospect of fusion energy becoming available within 20-25 years. As for the environment maniacs lets take away their cars, turn their lights, computers and ACs off and wait for their enlightenment
I think it's up to the USA and the USA alone to choose how they address their energy problems. Drilling in Alaska is their chosen way to do this. What right does anyone outside the USA have to bully the Americans into not drilling there?
It's fairly easy to do a development like this with very minimal impact on flora or fauna if you wish to. How many tourists in the UK notice the oilfields being developed under Poole harbour and the coast there? I predict that if anything goes awry in ANWR, we'll be hearing a lot about it, but if it goes well, there'll be a deafening silence from the protesters.
Arctic regions are ecologically sensitive
enough without introducing drilling.
I remember when James Watt, Reagan's
man, wanted to drill in the American West,
and the furor over that.
No to drilling for oil in the Arctic.
We should be looking for other viable sources
of energy instead.
Yes, definitely. The wildlife will love it. Gives 'em something to talk about.
The US should not drill in the wildlife refuge. Not just because of a few fluffy bears, but for all our sakes. Climate change is already causing more floods and disasters, killing thousands of people, and it is only going to get worse if we keep burning oil. They should be developing wind and solar power instead.
This is definitely disastrous to the environment. What can you expect from an oilman? He and his vice president are hell bent on turning this country into an anti-environmental oilfield. I hope the morons who voted for him are happy now!
Bush was always going to be a smash-and-grab president whose policies favoured the pockets of his cronies. This is just the first manifestation of this fact. Polls show that an overwhelming majority of Americans are opposed to oil drilling in Alaska, but now he's in office Bush shows no concern. The attitude of this administration is disgraceful. Jim Young's suggestion of a global boycott of US goods is excellent - the US under this president will only listen to money talking.
The irony is Alaska is a Republican state, and now they're getting what they voted for - short term, non-renewable income (oil) at the expense of long term, renewable income (tourism).
Most of the posters here seem to be disconnected from reality. We are all still dependent on oil and until other types of energy and alternative fuel cars are the norm, there is a need to tap as many different oil reserves as possible - as long as they can be safely and ecologically developed. Only a very, very tiny part of ANWAR is being discussed for drilling and this can be done cleanly.
James Dawkins, England
Certainly, reducing consumption would remove the need to drill in Alaska, but that is exactly what the oil companies do NOT want. Reduced consumption equals reduced profits, that's the bottom line. Now the oil companies are calling the shots in the US, it is just a question of justifying, like Kyoto, a decision that has already been made. Why else would the House defeat an amendment calling for greater efficiency in certain vehicles which would actually make the need for this exploitation redundant? As a Texas Republican put it "Why do we want to drill in ANWR? Because that's where the oil is". One question, if, with modern technology, drilling can be done without damaging the environment, why have they made such a mess of Texas?
If Americans had enough oil from their own resources like Alaska, then they wouldn't have to "humanely" bomb Iraq, Yugoslavia etc. in order to tap-in and secure their oil supply. So let them drill - maybe that would save some human life.
George Bush is connected with the oil industry. The oil industry is not known for caring about the environment. However, a country of 9.6 million square kilometres with lots of desert could generate huge amounts of solar power and the waterfalls on the border with Canada could be used for hydro-power.
The Bush administration is clearly going to press ahead with whatever it sees as healthy for the US economy. The only way to curb its selfish environmental policies is to have a global boycott of US products.
Recently we have seen proposals for a new wind farm in Scotland providing enough power for 150,000 homes. I wonder if the American authorities have even considered projects of this type as a solution to their 'energy crisis'? Perhaps then they wouldn't need to drill for more oil.
What's the point of having a wildlife refuge if it's going to be violated like this?
This raises the question of just how you run a dangerous and potentially polluting industrial activity extracting fuels which contribute to global warming, in an "environmentally friendly" way.
Perhaps the "environment" to which this will be "friendly" is the McMansions of Bush's supporters, which will be enhanced as they grow rich from this appalling activity.
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