Which One is the Real ANWR?
Each-year thousands of waterfowl and other birds nest and reproduce the Prudhoe Bay and Kuparuk fields and a healthy and increasing caribou herd migrates through these areas to calve and seek respite from annoying pests. Oil field facilities have been located and designed to accommodate wildlife and utilize the least amount of tundra surface.
Experience gained at Prudhoe Bay and Kuparuk along with rapidly evolving drilling and production techniques will further minimize environmental impacts and surface use in future frontier arctic petroleum provinces such as ANWR. Further, there have evolved since the late 1960's, a sophisticated regulatory framework and permitting process at the federal, state, and local (North Slope Borough) level. These require measured, thoroughly researched and planned development activities focused on environmental protection.
The consensus of the geologic community is that the Coastal Plain of ANWR represents the highest petroleum potential onshore area yet to be explored in North America. This potential is believed to be on the order of billions of barrels of recoverable oil and may rival that of the Prudhoe Bayfield. Should leasing be permitted and subsequent commercial discoveries be made, it will be an estimated 15 years or more before oil and gas production from ANWR reaches market. That production will then be urgently required by the United States. Despite the current oil glut and decline in oil prices, the U.S. oil supply picture by the late 1990s could be bleak. Domestic crude oil production, which has already declined from nearly 9 million barrels per day in 1985 to about 6.6 million barrels per day in early 1995, is projected to decline to less than 5 million barrels per day in 2010. Even with only a modest growth in U.S. crude oil demand, the deficit in U.S. supplies will be on the order of 10 million barrels per day, which will have to be made up by new discoveries or imports. ANWR's contribution will therefore be critical to national energy needs
The issue of oil and gas leasing in the 8 percent of ANWR represented by the Coastal Plain should not be considered, therefore, as an "either/or" decision with respect to preservation of important fish and wildlife resources. The record of other petroleum development on the North Slope supports application of multiple use management concepts in ANWR. Nevertheless, in issuing its decision with regard to future management of the Coastal Plain of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, Congress will be faced with the challenge of reconciling diverse goals, national needs for additional domestic energy supplies, the national need and interest in preservation of wilderness or nearly wild lands, and the promise (in ANCSA and ANILCA) to Alaska Natives regarding continued availability of subsistence fish and wildlife resources. These goals are not, however, mutually exclusive. Given the oil and gas exploration and production technology existing today, the ANWR Coastal Plain can be opened to leasing that is consistent with all of these important requirements.