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Drilling in Alaska

Though not at this moment, in the future there will be a fight over allowing access to Alaska’s Natural Wildlife Refuge (ANWR) as it contains roughly 10 billion barrels of oil which can be extracted while leaving more than 99.9% of the area in its pristine, untouched condition. The Institute for Energy Research comments:

The 1002 Area is the North Slope of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR) and is approximately 70 miles from the Trans-Alaska Pipeline System (TAPS – known colloquially as “the Alaska Pipeline”).  In 1980, Congress and President Jimmy Carter set aside 1.5 million acres of ANWR’s 19 million acres for future study of its energy resource potential.[ii] These 1.5 million acres, known as the 1002 Area, have no trees, deepwater lakes, or mountain peaks, but contain immense energy resources.[iii]

The U.S. Geological Survey has estimated that the 1002 Area has an expected value of 10.4 billion barrels of recoverable oil that could be produced at a rate of about one million barrels of oil per day.[iv] This potential resource could make the North Slope of ANWR the largest oil-producing field in the United States. The area’s oil and natural gas resources could be developed using merely 2,000 acres of the surface area, or less than 0.01 percent of ANWR’s total area.[v]

A bill to allow drilling in ANWR has passed through a committee in the House of Representatives, but its incredibly unlikely that it would pass through the Senate this year:

The bill will be part of a larger House Republican strategy to use energy production and other revenue to finance popular infrastructure projects. It’s expected on the House floor later this month.

The modern debate over ANWR drilling stretches back to at least the Clinton administration.

“This bill has been well thought out,” Rep. Don Young (R-Alaska) said. “We have passed this bill 11 times out of this committee. The Senate passed this once. Bill Clinton vetoed it.”

Three panel Democrats — Jim Costa of California, Dan Boren of Oklahoma and Pedro Pierluisi of Puerto Rico — voted for the bill.

There’s some bipartisanship here, though in an election year Obama is going to go with the safe route and not anger parts of his environmental base.

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