[NYT] Kristof visits ANWR
ejw at cse.ucsc.edu
Wed Sep 10 12:22:47 PDT 2003
Casting a Cold Eye on Arctic Oil
By NICHOLAS D. KRISTOF
After rafting and backpacking through this wilderness for a week, weighing
whether Congress should allow oil drilling here, I've reached a few
conclusions. One is that both the oil industry and environmentalists
exaggerate their cases.
Estimates range from 3.2 billion barrels (which would supply all U.S. needs
for six months) to 16 billion barrels, but these are all wild guesses. The
top end of the range would be very significant, coming close to doubling
America's proven petroleum reserves of 22 billion barrels, but there is some
reason to be skeptical of the higher estimates particularly because the
oil here may not be economical to extract.
It is true that oil drilling would not ravage the entire refuge. Only the
coastal plain, 7 percent of the total area, would be open to drilling. The
coastal plain is endless brown tundra, speckled with ponds and lakes, boggy
and squishy to hike in. It is by far the least scenic part of the refuge,
and if one has to drill somewhere in the area, this is the place to do it.
It's also only fair to give special weight to the views of the only people
who live in the coastal plain: the Inupiat Eskimos, who overwhelmingly favor
drilling (they are poor now, and oil could make them millionaires). One of
the Eskimos, Bert Akootchook, angrily told me that if environmentalists were
so anxious about the Arctic, they should come here and clean up the
petroleum that naturally seeps to the surface of the tundra.
Also, be sure to check out the multimedia feature associated with the
article. Excellent commentary and luscious photograpy. I can easily see this
article shifting the entire debate -- it's surprisingly balanced and
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