Oil Drilling Operations in ANWR

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Introduction

      Both offshore and land oil drilling is meant to extract crude oil from the earth’s oil wells deep underground. The Arctic National Wildlife Refuge which is also known as the Arctic Refuge is a wildlife refuge that is located to the northeastern corner of Alaska in the United States. The Arctic Refuge covers a total area of about 79, 318 km2 in the region of Alaska North Slope and is the largest wildlife refuge in the United States. The Arctic National Wildlife Refuge slightly exceeds the Yukon Delta National Wildlife Refuge by size and its administration offices are located at Fairbanks. At the present, there are no roads leading into this refuge even though people have settled as evidenced by the presence of settlements. Therefore, both the foreign and local visitors can gain access to the refuge by aircraft or by boat. There is a controversy on whether to extract oil in the 1002 area of the ANWR for economic use which can potentially harm the natural wildlife in the Arctic Refuge. George Bush advocated exploiting the oil supply in Alaska at the ANWR because of the rising gas prices as well as the frequent power failure in the United States. However, some people argue that the oil fields at the ANWR can only produce little oil which cannot justify the destruction of the natural environment.    

      While a number of people criticize the issue of oil drilling for the destruction of natural environment, the proponents of oil drilling assert that there are more advantages of oil drilling than there are disadvantages. The advantages of oil drilling include the creation of employment opportunities, boosting of the host country’s economy, provides the host country with significant energy security, and greatly improves the infrastructural facilities both for transport and communication. The disadvantages of oil drilling include the destruction of the natural environment which involves the creation of unfavorable living conditions for wildlife.  However, improved technologies can allow for safer methods of oil extraction with minimal or no destruction of the natural environment. According to Trapp, the two sides of the issue continue to exist in Alaska on whether the oil field should be exploited to boost the American economy, create job opportunities, improve the infrastructure, and provide energy security, or it should remain unexploited to preserve the natural environment and favor wildlife.  Therefore the issue of drilling for oil in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR) of Alaska is a controversial issue.

Positive effects of oil drilling at ANWR in Alaska

      A key benefit of oil drilling is the creation of employment opportunities, especially within and in the immediate surroundings of the area where oil drilling will take place. Many individuals in the local community can get various jobs at the site of oil drilling and therefore this helps to alleviate the issue of unemployment. Usually, the salary or wages significantly depend on skills and experience of employees, for instance the rig workers who have worked for many years earn about $100,000 annually. Drilling job opportunities include Rig Manager, Drilling Engineer, Driller, Tool pusher, Motor hand, Derrick hand, Roustabout, Pump man, and Roughneck. Employees earn a very attractive remuneration and there are many opportunities for employees to climb the career ladder. The drilling jobs are fair as evidenced by the pay scale since the more physically the job is demanding, the involved employees are paid more money as compared to those who are involved in less tasking chores. Apart from the drilling jobs, citizens can also get jobs in oil refineries and in various industries such as transportation of transit goods and passengers which depend on oil supplies for their operation. Therefore, citizens of the host country can benefit from the local oil drilling both directly and indirectly.            

      Drilling for oil in Alaska has been considered a very significant issue because of the high prices of heating oil and gasoline. The Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR) of Alaska contains substantial deposits of crude oil which should be exploited for the improvement of the American economy. Oil is among the most treasured commodities in the contemporary societies since it is needed to run engines for automobiles, planes, factories, and for heating and lighting homes. As a result, in Alaska where oil should be drilled, it is most likely that there will be a significant increase in economy due to an increased demand for oil and its products. The sales from oil and its products also ameliorate the local economy and the living standards of the residents in the surrounding community for instance, the residents in the vicinity of ANWR in Alaska. In Alaska, the refined oil and its products are expected to be less expensive within the local areas and this contributes to entire country’s economic growth. Local oil drilling will also reduce the dependence of America on foreign oil. There is a possibility of preserving the environment and at the same time exploiting the oil fields if advanced technologies are developed. This will ensure that the untapped natural resources are exploited fully for the benefit of citizens and the country as a whole.

      According to Mtsiva, drilling of oil locally at ANWR in Alaska provides a fundamental energy security to the American society. Because of the significant increase in oil consumption, oil drilling gives the host country an indispensable energy security. When a country exclusively depends on the foreign oils supplies, it experiences a rise in oil prices which crumbles the economy . A country with its own source of energy creates enough job opportunities for the citizens. This can significantly reduce the over dependency on the oil supplies from foreign countries and therefore will cut down oil prices within the country. Various industries within the host country will also experience the benefit of reduced oil prices which can lead to the production of better quality and affordable products and services. As the citizens spend little money at the pump, they can invest the rest of their income and therefore achieve improved standards of living. Oil is also considered as an efficient source of energy because it can be easily turned into energy for heating and for powering factories, automobiles, ships and aircrafts.   

      According to Gingrich, Newt, and Vince, both communication and transport infrastructure will be improved for the purposes of processing and distribution of oil and its products. Therefore, oil drilling can lead to the development of a remote and interior place and therefore become more accessible than before. This is meant for proper transportation of oil to the pump and to the port for export. There will be an introduction of new technology to convert crude oil into various petroleum products. Many local companies will benefit from an improved infrastructure such an environment of well-structured communication and information technology which can keep them away competition. For a country to achieve sustainable development, it must establish good infrastructural facilities. Oil mining in a remote area requires a viable and efficient infrastructure so as to facilitate the daily operations. This type of infrastructure also prompts socio-economic development. A developed communication and transport infrastructure is essential for citizens to get an access to varied services which can bring about positive changes to their standards of living. Examples of services that citizens can access include health and education. Improved infrastructure can also facilitate tourism and thus earn the country foreign exchange. Investors are always attracted by a well structured communication and transport infrastructure. However, many people have been against this issue of oil drilling in Alaska at the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge because of some negative impacts it has on the natural environment.   

  

Negative effects of oil drilling at ANWR in Alaska

      Oil drilling at ANWR in Alaska will involve the release of pollutants such as nitrogen oxides and methane. This takes place in the course of developmental stages, as the workers establish infrastructures such as derricks and roads; during the oil drilling process as high powered drills emit pollutants; and in the process of transporting oil by ship for distribution which causes spillage over the surface of water. The release of nitrogen oxides, methane and other tiny particles can cause acid rain and smog which can be unfriendly to wild animals and plants at the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. Because this region experiences a very short growing season, nutrient-poor soils, and extreme cold, any physical interference such as seismic oil exploration, bulldozer vehicles or oil spills can leave the land damaged for many years which negatively interferes with wildlife. The individuals who criticize oil exploration and exploitation at the ANWR say that this area will experience devastating effects and therefore endangering about forty-five animal species including grizzly bears, polar bears, black bear, caribou and musk ox, snow geese, wolverines, arctic foxes, and a large number of migratory birds which use the coastal plain. According to the opponents, the negative effects outweigh the positive effects for oil drilling at ANWR because they assert that this area will provide oil for less than four years after which the land is left idle for centuries. Therefore, it is advisable for the United States to look for alternative sources of energy to solve the problem of dependence on foreign energy resources.

      The ANWR is adversely affected by global warming which is associated with the carbon dioxide gas emitted during the process of drilling for oil. If the effects due to global warming intensify, the potential wildlife habitat will degenerate significantly for a number of endangered animal species like the polar bear. Parts of the Arctic Coastal Plain are covered by pebbles and rock fragments. The ANWR also receives the indirect impacts of oil drilling such as flooding and dust that have been proved adverse to plant life which is the source of food for wild animals. Drilling for oil in ANWR will also have detrimental consequences on marine animals because of its hearing disturbances. This is due to the fact that water carries sound better than air. The deafening sounds due to powerful drilling machines will affect the detecting, localizing, and recognizing of companions, predators, prey, and mates for aquatic animals who use acoustic signals for communication. This barrier to communication has been found to cause stress for aquatic animals. Species like the endangered bowhead whale are greatly affected by the industrial deafening sounds from icebreaking ships, production platforms, drill ships, low-flying aircrafts, and semi-submersible rigs as they create irrevocable harm when these whales are looking for their mates and when they are detecting the location of their predators.  However the proponents have refuted the arguments regarding the negative effects of drilling for oil in the ANWR.

      The proponents assert that drilling for oil in ANWR can be done using advanced technology which can reduce or avoid detrimental impacts on wildlife. According to the proponents, directional drilling can be used to access multiple regions within an oil field instead of vertical oil drilling which will litter the 1002 area with oil offshore rigs. The directional drilling is meant to reduce the number of wells on the oil field and therefore most of the land surface that is covered by ANWR will not be disturbed. The oil platforms can be suspended on ice platforms to prevent the oil rig from melting the permafrost or disturbing the surface. Building of roads to access the oil platforms can negatively interfere with the tundra. The proponents assert that it is possible to reduce the interference by using ice in making access roads. The wildlife at Prudhoe Bay has been found stable irrespective of the drilling operations that were started about forty-one years ago.  Therefore, there is a possibility that ANWR may not be affected by oil drilling operations. According to the proponents, oil drilling in the ANWR will be associated with many advantages which include the creation of employment opportunities, boosting of America’s economy, providing America with significant energy security, and significantly improving the infrastructural facilities both for transport and communication in the surrounding area.    

Conclusion

      There has been a controversy on whether to drill oil in the 1002 area of ANWR for economic use which can as well harm the natural wildlife in the Arctic Refuge. While a number of people criticize the issue of oil drilling for the destruction of natural environment, the proponents of oil drilling assert that there are more advantages of oil drilling than there are disadvantages. Opponents are very much against oil drilling operations in ANWR because of air, water and sound pollution associated with drilling process and oil spillage. They assert that some endangered wild animals may become extinct because their habitat will be destroyed altogether by the devastating effects of oil drilling. The proponents assert that the negative effects of oil drilling operations can be minimized by employing appropriate technology such as directional drilling as well as establishment of ice roads so that the tundra cannot be interfered with.  According to the proponents, the advantages that accompany oil drilling in the ANWR will include the creation of employment opportunities, providing America with significant energy security, boosting of America’s economy, and significantly improving the infrastructural facilities both for transport and communication in the surrounding area. Therefore, the controversy continues to exist because the two sides of the controversy have not come up with the most satisfying solution.

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