On August 13, 2012, Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar unveiled a proposal to allow drilling in half of Alaska’s National Petroleum Reserve, a tract of 23.5 million acres of federal land on Alaska’s north coast.
The plan will encourage development of Alaska’s vast oil resources while leaving coastal areas, where endangered species such as seals and polar bears live, untouched.
While environmentalists are mostly satisfied with the plan as a reasonable compromise, Alaska Senator Lisa Murkowski stands with voices from the oil industry when she says that the entire reserve should be opened for exploitation.
Alaska holds one of the largest reserves of petroleum in the United States and has long represented an alternative to foreign fuel dependence in the popular imagination. Salazar’s plan is noteworthy for being the first to manage the National Reserve as a whole, allowing private exploitation at an unprecedented scale.
While several companies, including Royal Dutch Shell, have begun preparations for oil prospecting in the area, many note the lack of infrastructure and unforgiving weather in the area as large deterrents to development.
But supporters of the Salazar proposal say this is a “responsible” way to access oil supplies. The question becomes is there even such a thing as “responsible” drilling?
Salazar claims the proposal allows oil companies: “To harness the oil and gas potential of the NPR-A, we need a plan that will help the industry bring energy safely to market from this remote location, while also protecting wildlife and subsistence rights of Alaska Natives.”
“The 11.8 million acres that would be available for leasing under the preferred alternative, Alternative B-2, makes the vast majority of projected oil resources in the NPR-A available for leasing. The area that would be opened does not affect the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, which is situated east of the area proposed for leasing.”
Good-b Editor’s Note:
The focus for us at Good-b is to wean ourselves off oil and other fossil fuels completely over time. The goal is to replace fossil fuel energy with sustainable sources like solar and wind. Drilling for oil in Alaska’s untamed wilderness seems a giant step backward for all concerned.
But Americans need jobs and the economic revitalization that oil drilling brings. Shouldn’t we put our money and resources into building vast wind and solar power stations instead? We can put people to work in a way that sustains the planet. We applaud Salazar for his great efforts to save the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.
Yet, Americans are not just too dependent on foreign oil. We are too dependent on domestic oil. Our government has to move the process forward, not backward to replace environmentally harmful fuel sourcing. People are looking for alternatives to gas and oil. Supporting these alternative fuel sources, giving the public access to them, allows individuals to decide for themselves. The 21st century should be a wake-up call for preparing the way to reverse climate change and heal, rather than harm, the natural world.
Category: Sustainable Small-B