Published on Dec 9, 2014
The question of whether to drill for oil in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR) has been an ongoing political controversy in the United States since 1977. The issue has been used by both Democrats and Republicans as a political device, especially through contentious election cycles, and has been the subject of much debate in the National media.
ANWR comprises 19,000,000 acres (77,000 km2) of the north Alaskan coast. The land is situated between the Beaufort Sea to the north, Brooks Range to the south, and Prudhoe Bay to the west. It is the largest protected wilderness in the United States and was created by Congress under the Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act of 1980. Section 1002 of that act deferred a decision on the management of oil and gas exploration and development of 1,500,000 acres (6.1×109 m2) in the coastal plain, known as the “1002 area”. The controversy surrounds drilling for oil in this subsection of ANWR.
Much of the debate over whether to drill in the 1002 area of ANWR rests on the amount of economically recoverable oil, as it relates to world oil markets, weighed against the potential harm oil exploration might have upon the natural wildlife, in particular the calving ground of the Porcupine caribou.
Prudhoe Bay Oil Field is a large oil field on Alaska’s North Slope. It is the largest oil field in both the United States and in North America, covering 213,543 acres (86,418 ha) and originally containing approximately 25 billion barrels (4.0×109 m3) of oil. The amount of recoverable oil in the field is more than double that of the next largest field in the United States, the East Texas oil field. The field is operated by BP; partners are ExxonMobil and ConocoPhillips Alaska.