OIL DRILLING IN ALASKA
A Controversial Issue
Oil Drilling in Alaska
decisions ►Case study
fossil fuel that exists underground as tiny droplets trapped inside pores, inside rocks. ► The pores and tiny droplets can be seen through a microscope.
known as petroleum, it is the most widely used fossil fuel. ► When first pumped from ground it is called crude oil.
oil recovery- involves drilling a well and pumping out the oil that flows by gravity into the bottom of the well ► Secondary oil recovery- water is injected to force some of the remaining heavy oil to the surface ► Obtain 35% of oil using this method
or tertiary oil recovery- steam or CO2 gas is used to force heavy oil into well cavity for pumping to surface (very expensive and uses a lot of energy) ► Crude oil then travels by pipeline to a refinery where it is heated and separated into different liquid components.
Crude oil is refined into:
fuel ► Propane ► Motor oil ► Heating oil ► Road tar
Who has all the oil?
of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC)- 13 countries. Have 67% of world’s reserves, supply 40% of the oil ► Saudi Arabia- 26% ► Iraq- 10% ► Recent developments- Alaska, Siberia, and Mexico
available ► Simple combustion process that can directly generate heat or electricity ► Inexpensive ► Easily distributed and stored ► Widely used
on foreign sources ► Pollution caused by spills and off-shore drilling ► Air pollution caused by burning ► Contributor to global warming ► Short-term availability ► Major price variability due to politics
A “frozen dialogue”
Interior Dept. opens 20 million acres of Alaska’s North Slope to oil and gas leasing (National Petroleum ReserveAlaska, NPRA). The same Interior Dept. designates 8.9 million acres of coastal land in northeast Alaska as protected wilderness (basis for Arctic National Wildlife Refuge).
A “frozen dialogue”
Alaska becomes a state and is authorized 104 million acres of land for its own management. ► 1968- The largest North American oil field is discovered at Prudhoe Bay.
A “frozen dialogue"
Alaska Native Claims Settlements Act enacted, clearing up land disputes. ► Soon after 1971- Nixon administration authorizes construction of Trans-Alaska Pipeline.
A “frozen dialogue”
The ANSCA was about to expire, so Carter issues Antiquities Act ► 1980- Alaska National Interest Land Conservation Act (ANILCA) doubles protected area to 19.8 million acres- Arctic National Wildlife Refuge
A 1.5 million-acre area of coastal plain called 1002 Area is left unprotected by Congress. This has been the battleground between environmentalists and oil interests ever since.
More recent dialogue:
President George W. Bush has vowed to open the 1002 Area for drilling.
1995- President Bill Clinton vetoed budget resolution that would allow drilling in 1002 Area.
Reasons to drill 1002 Area:
untapped reserve in the world ► Less reliance on foreign oil ► Creates jobs which will boost the economy
Reasons to drill cont.:
prices ► Control rolling blackouts in California ► Would provide 6 months to 1 year’s supply of oil and eliminate imports from Saudi Arabia
Reasons NOT to drill:
SUVs are made to be as fuel efficient as cars, we’d save 3 times as much oil as we’d get from the refuge ► Won’t lower gas prices ► Doesn’t have public support (70% against)
Reasons not to drill cont.:
help crisis now because oil couldn’t be used for 10 years ► Wont make us independent of foreign imports ► Only provided oil for 6 months, possibly a year
and water contamination ► Alteration of vegetation and drainage ► Atmospheric effects: haze, acid rain, global warming
disturb polar bears in dens ► Affect calving grounds for caribou ► Interfere with migratory birds ► Changes ecological balance (hunting practices, etc.)
endanger one of the most pristine areas in the world ► Land will be scared from development
► ► ►
1002 Area contains between 5.7 and 16 billion barrels of oil. About 75% is extractable. The US uses 20 million barrels a day. Less than 3.2 billion would go to oil companies.
was much lobbying in support of the president and drilling, but the Democrats barely gained enough support to override them. ► The amendment was part of the budget plan which could not be filibustered. ► The House of Representatives was in support of drilling.
with polar bears, caribou, and swans
oil fields ► 4,000 wells ► 500 miles of road ► 1,100 miles of pipeline ► 450 waste pits ► 1 spill a day ► emits 2 times as much smog producing NO as Washington DC
Corps of Engineers only rejected 3 out of 1,100 permits to drill. ► Alaska has over half America’s bogs, wetlands, and marshes, but there is no hesitation to drain and fill them. ► There is pressure from both environmental agencies and Gov./big business, but latter is much stronger.
opposing forces include: Fish and Wildlife service, Environmental Protection Agency, Marine Fisheries Service ► Regulatory agencies are subordinate to construction; rules are often ignored (illegal dumping etc.) ► Claim that Alaska has wetlands to spare… that environmentalists can only save so much.
do not appear to have suffered, but no one will do a comprehensive report. ► Chemicals lost under pipelines ► Natural life altered (foxes now dumpster dive rather than hunt)
Which is more important: the environment or the economy?
open spaces where the oil droplets are trapped ► Filibuster- prolonged debate in the Senate in order to prevent a bill from getting passed ► NPRA- National Petroleum Reserve- Alaska ► ANCSA- Alaska Native claims Settlement Act
Act ► OPEC- Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries ► Pristine- of or pertaining to the earliest period or state; having its original purity
Alaska National Land Conservation