Frase and I checked out the global warming exhibition a couple of weekends ago at BMOCA. Good thing we did because in true Frase and Jen fashion, we nearly missed the show and it is now no longer on display. 😦 However, for those that missed it, it was a pretty good show. There were, of course, a number of standard guilt-inspiring, hand-wringing and brow-rubbing images of polar bears and rapidly melting ice caps. But what was unusual about the show was the it’s focus on the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge in Alaska.
We have all, I’m sure, heard about ANWR but I had never really put any definite thoughts around what this place means and the unforeseen consequences of our behavior. I spent some time this evening crawling around their Web site instead of writing out Christmas cards and studying. There is lots of great information and some frank analysis of the current discussion around drilling in this area. The site addresses this issue head on with references to studies they have conducted and those conducted by other oil companies.
The information on the site extends beyond this important issue to describe the history of the area, the original supporters of the plan to preserve this wilderness for future generations and the types of animals and cultures that still thrive here. Today, it is still a thriving and dynamic ecosystem.
I pulled a couple of quotes from the site:
The refuge was established in 1960 as a gift to the American people and is
"The most biologically diverse conservation unit in the circumpolar
north, the Refuge supports 45 species of land and marine mammals, 36
species of fish, and 180 species of birds from four continents."
and this data:
"Using the updated report and recent oil prices, the USGS estimated in 2000 that, assuming a price of $24 per barrel, there is a 95% chance of finding 1.9 billion barrels (BBO) of economically recoverable oil in the Arctic Refuge’s 1002 Area; a 5% chance of finding 9.4 BBO; and a 50% chance of finding 5.3 BBO. Reported estimates of 16 BBO from the 1002 Area and adjacent private lands and offshore State waters do not factor in the costs of developing the oil field."
I left the show at BMOCA thinking about the discussion to drill in this area but this time I had images in my mind of this place and of the animals and people, who live there. It was no longer this icy-nebulous idea (I always think ice when I think of Alaska) but rather a thriving eco-system and a gift from a previous generation of Americans, who recognized the importance of preserving our natural history.
So, are 1.9 barrel of oil worth potentially destroying this habitat?
For more information about the impact and requirements of drilling for oil, check out this archived file. The page outlines specific details around the infrastructure requirements needed to drill and is a good solid read.