Oil in Alaska

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We now face the consequences of resistance in Congress to oil drilling in Alaska's wasteland. The propaganda leading to the vote against this drilling was about as bad as it gets. Follow the link above to see the misleading picture of other parts of the wildlife reserve that weren't going to be drilled compared with what it really looks like. Well, the tactic worked. The drilling won't happen there, where it would have been relatively harmless. Well now Governor Murkowski, who doesn't have the power to drill in the land, has resorted to getting at the oil in a way he can. He's authorized drilling offshore in the direction of the oil under the land. I applaud him for seeing what's necessary and doing it, but it's unfortunate that this much more environmentally unsound method of getting at the oil was necessary because of some slimy deceivers simply wanting to make Bush look bad for wanting to drill in a wasteland, which most certainly would have been less potentially damaging to the environment than what's now going to have to happen to reach the oil.

Thanks to One Hand Clapping for providing the link.


I think that the photos displayed were quite misleading, and there are often cheap tactics by environmentalists. On the other hand, areas that look like 'wastelands' to us are often havens and crucial resources for certain wildlife (swamps are often like this, wetlands which look wretched are very important breeding grounds for endangered birds, etc.). Also, I thought that the drilling was argued against in that it would get in the way of Caribou migration patterns. I also heard that the drilling would hardly put a dent in our oil needs. I'm not really taking a side here, it just seems inconclusive either way to me, 'though I'm sure there's more data out there to settle the issue which I'm too lazy to look for.

Mark is right. It's a much more complex issue than either the environmental fruitcakes or the gung-ho Alaskans are making it out to be. It's not about the beauty of the wildlife reserve, but about the Porcupine caribou herd that crosses that "wasteland" to get to their calving grounds (a unique sort of territory), and whether they would be able to get there if a pipeline (which, if you've seen an oil pipeline, is about the diameter of a semi-trailer) ran above ground. The herd is 100,000+ strong, and they all travel together. Only 3-5% of the calves survive now--mostly because of predators like grizzlies and wolves. If they had to separate to find their way through the pipline area, would that make them even more vulnerable to predation? Will they even cross the pipeline, noisy as it is, to get to the calving grounds? It is crucial that they do--there is no other land in the north of Canada or Alaska that is suitable for a herd that large to calve in. These are largely unanswered questions because the situation of this particular herd is so unique. Some herd do coexist well enough with the pipeline, but they are small--like 100 animals--and don't travel the way the porcupine herd does. This is made even more complicated by the dependence of a certain group of Gwichin people (who are Canadian, not Alaskan, so the Alaskan gov't has no real compelling interest to protect them) on the herd for subsistance.

Other Gwichin groups that live in Alaska stand to make money (at least temporarily) if the pipeline goes through. It would probably be a plus for them, although I suspect probably not as much of a plus as they want to believe.

And how much oil is there? Would it really help out all that much?

I suppose that's more than you ever wanted to know on the issue. Most of the info comes by way of my friend, the caribou biologist (yes, that is actually his job title), and daughter's soccer coach, who is not an environmental fruitcake (and believe me, we've got 'em here!), but a pretty levelheaded sort.

Complex issue with no simple answer.

BTW, I suspect that picture of the wasteland was taken in the spring before the beautiful grasses and tundra heather and wildflowers were out. The pictures for both sides seem to be a bit dishonest. And I don't know what the photos have to do with anything, anyway....

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