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Thursday, March 31, 2005

Shell wins bid for ANWR offshore drilling leases

The Royal Dutch/Shell Group successfully bid $44 million for oil drilling leases off the coast of ANWR Wednesday. The tracts were among several in the Beaufort Sea were offered by the U.S. Minerals Management Service, attracting a total of $47 million in bids.

The tracts that got the most attention from Shell stretched from waters off the yet-undeveloped Point Thomson unit west of the refuge to areas northeast of Kaktovik, an Inupiat Eskimo village on the eastern edge of the refuge.

A Shell spokeswoman said the company's interest was not driven by recent Senate actions to open the Arctic refuge to drilling. But a reasonable person might conclude otherwise. Shell's offshore leases might be strategic for the company in terms of operational efficiencies if ANWR drilling does get approved. It is noteworthy that Shell has not been active in oil extraction in Alaska since the 1980s.

“This is just an indication that in the current political climate, they are trying to lease every single acre in the arctic, regardless of the concerns of the North Slope community for subsistence,” Eleanor Huffines of The Wilderness Society’s Alaska office told the Reuters news agency.

Murkowski: Washington state needs ANWR oil

Frank Murkowski, governor of Alaska, writes a column in today's Seattle Times in which he tries to convince Washington state residents that their economy depends on ANWR oil.

In my opinion, it rings hollow, employs limp rhetoric, and relies on the familiar stretching of the numbers that we've come to expect from drilling supporters (of course, both sides are guilty of this). Murkowski even stumbles and delivers what many Washington residents will perceive, I suspect, as an insult:

"Washington alone consumes 18 million gallons of petroleum daily. Apparently, not everyone is traveling to their destinations on bicycles."

In saying this, he seems to be suggesting two things: 1) That Washington residents are not as environmentally minded as they are perceived to be; and 2) Traveling by bicycle is silly.

He then tries to argue that we should drill for oil in ANWR because environmental protections will be more rigorous than if we drilled in foreign countries. This is like saying we should let graffiti artists loose in the Sistine Chapel because, well, downtown alleys are already covered in graffiti. It just doesn't make sense as a logical argument. If drilling regulations aren't tough enough in Saudi Arabian or Venezuelan oilfields, the solution is not to start over in an unspoiled place. No, the solution is to tighten drilling regulations wherever we drill.

He goes on to threaten that, without ANWR oil, Washington will become a haven for "foreign ships with foreign crews, built in foreign shipyards." Mr. Murkowski, obviously, knows nothing about the shipping business. Virtually all cargo ships are already foreign in every respect, because their owners (including their American owners) want to avoid paying American taxes and American wages, and heeding American safety regulations.

I'm parotting Murkowski's rhetoric here. He uses the word "America" or "American" no few than 10 times in his essay.

L.A. woman quits job for ANWR film project

Heather Dunkin has a successful career in human resources with The Jim Henson Company (of Muppet fame) in Los Angeles. But the U.S. Senate's recent actions to pursue oil drilling in Alaska's Arctic refuge prompted her to give all that up. She has given two months' notice to her employer, and plans to travel to ANWR for a digital film project to document the natural wonders of the refuge.

In a recent exchange with ANWR News, Dunkin described what drove her to do this.

"My main motivation is to film digitally and show this footage and pictures of the flourishing life in this section (ANWR)," she said. "My passion is to truthfully inform people of what we will lose if we continue raping the Earth and her inhabitants for short-term gratification. I plan to bring with me another filmmaker or photographer and anyone else who will caravan. Aside from this, I will continue to do research and look for potential sponsors in order to give the area the best possible coverage."

Dunkin said she initially planned merely a two-week vacation from her job to film in ANWR. Beginning her research, she found a "disappointing amount of posts" from people on the Internet in support of ANWR drilling. This prompted her to quit her job and commit herself to ANWR. She posted a notice on seeking likeminded artists and others to join her, and received "overwhelming" support.

"I received no e-mails to the contrary. People either sent me their resumes or responded that they couldn't come, but were supportive of my quest," she said.

Here is Heather's Craiglist posting.

Anyone interested in joining Heather or offering words of support may contact her at

I commend Heather for following her dreams, and for making an effort to further the debate about ANWR with moving pictures. Hopefully we'll hear more from her both during and after her journey.

Wednesday, March 30, 2005

ANWR - The Band

Yes, it's true. I recently discovered there's a rock band called ANWR. They're based in Anchorage, and they appear to be drilling supporters. Arctic Power, the oil industry lobbying group, is described as being among the inspirations for the group's formation. And the band lists both Arctic Power and Alaska Republican Sen. Lisa Murkowski among their "friends."

On the band's website, you can listen to an .mp3 sample of their song "Drilling -- Yes or No." Despite the group's affiliation, the lyrics are somewhat ambiguous. Here's a sample:

Drilling issues we’ve gotta face
We’re divided in the race
From this point where does it go
Is it Drilling - Yes or No

Now the facts are all in
We’ll all lose or win
Hear the voice
Of the people call
Let’s decide to break down the wall
Cause united we stand - divided we fall

Our world resource is running dry
America’s future looks to you and I
To make the choice - To Drill The Land
Again united we must stand

Dunno if this group is still around. They claimed to have a new album ready for release last summer, tentatively titled, yes, "Drill", but their website looks like it hasn't been udpated in some time.

Yukon residents protest ANWR drilling

Some 250 protesters showed up on the steps of the Yukon provincial capital today to let their government know they don't want more drilling in the arctic or harm to caribou.

The protest was intended to coincide with a visit by Alaskan state officials with province leaders. That meeting, in part, was to discuss joint interests, including the proposed Alaska Highway gas pipeline and a proposed railway.

Alaska Sen. Fred Dyson, on hand for the talks, had threatening words about the demonstration. He told the CBC that "the disagreement on ANWR" will be used to "keep Yukon from getting the benefit of a multi-billion-dollar project going through the Yukon."

Study: Earth in failure mode

The so-called Millenium Ecosystem Assessment, released today, looks at 24 "services" the Earth provides to its people, and finds 15 in trouble. A product of 1,360 scientists in 95 countries, the far-reaching study constitutes a "stark warning" that "the ability of the planet's ecosystems to sustain future generations can no longer be taken for granted," according to the study's 45-member board.

A sample of the findings:
-- There are already more than 50 "dead zones" in oceans around the world, caused by an abundance of nutrient-rich runoff, usually from agriculture.
-- More than one-quarter of the world's wild fish stocks are overharvested.
-- Most species' populations are dropping.
-- By 2050, the world won't be able to feed everyone living.

According to the Philly Inquirer, what makes this study unique is that it is based on evidence that scientists generally agree on.

All is not lost. The authors recommend removing agricultural subsidies that harm the planet, protecting a lot more land, especially in and near the oceans (relevant content: ANWR's 1002 drilling area is coastal) , and use free-market incentives to reduce farm pollution and global warming gases.

Look for a lot more analysis on this report in the days ahead.

Link: Millenium Ecosystem Assessment

Artist: Enviro responsibility 'has left the building'

Alaskan photographer Douglas Yates expresses his passion for preserving ANWR in the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner. He also expresses no small amount of disgust for the politics at play.

"The cliff ahead indicates more than a technology gap," he writes. "While automobile efficiency legislation and most strategies to reduce oil dependence go begging, the Bush regime prefers foreign wars and domestic rape to meet growing consumption. The arrogance of power is blind."

Yates believes ANWR is a seminal issue, one that will define the path forward. That's why I created this blog, and it's why I hope you'll pay attention, regardless of your position.

He concludes: "The American way of life will be redrawn by our response to increasing pollution and climate change. While most Republicans shrug responsibility to the future, we must not. Preserving the integrity of the Arctic refuge sets an ideal that aspires Americans to think beyond themselves."

Where are the bumper stickers?

I can't help noticing that ANWR's fate is now being decided without the aid of bumper stickers. How is this possible? What may be the most important resource battle of our times in America is occurring without the aid of this most American of propganda tools.

Even the folks at, which advocates using green ribbons to protest ANWR drilling, fail to offer supporters any ACTUAL green ribbons. It seems obvious to me that they ought to come up with a green version of those magnetized ribbons we see all over the place now supporting our troops in Iraq and patriotism in general.

A quick Google search revealed virtually zero ANWR-related bumper stickers. Over at, that haven of homegrown boosterism, I found a few things. The pro-drilling side has a nice simple sticker available. The anti-drilling forces have a whole mess of products available here, but their logo is really rather lame and there's not a single bumper sticker in the inventory. Quite a grave oversight. There also appears to be a vestigial campaign getting under way here, but their message is ambiguous.

Come on, people, this is disappointing.

Tuesday, March 29, 2005

ANWR has role in Bush approval slump

The Christian Science Monitor reports on a new Pew public opinion survey that shows President Bush's approval rating slipping, and his support for oil drilling the Arctic refuge is one factor.

Nevertheless, ANWR drilling is not a leading factor in the decline. The poll shows the public almost evenly split on the issue, with 46 percent opposed to ANWR drilling, and 42 percent supportive.

The main factor in the decline, pundits say, is an overly ambitious second-term agenda -- including Social Security reform, the ongoing campaign for democracy in the Middle East, and his brief intervention in the Terry Schiavo death-watch case.

Writes the Monitor's Linda Feldman: "Ultimately, though, it may just be that successful second terms for American presidents are historically difficult to pull off. Bush is not running for reelection, but most of his Republican brethren on Capitol Hill are - and they know that the president's party often suffers its greatest defeats in the second-term midterm elections."

Support for drilling wanes among Inupiat

Julian Borger of the U.K.'s Guardian newspaper reports today that the Inupiat people in Kaktovik, longtime supporters of ANWR drilling, seem to be changing their tune.

Borger visited Kaktovik and reports that, despite the need for jobs there, nearly half the village recently signed a petition against oil exploration. This is a result of a stunning 600 percent increase in respiratory problems, possible due to air pollution from oil production at Prudhoe Bay.

"When the wind blows from the west, a yellow-brown smog goes right across the horizon. In the summer, when I go fishing, it burns my eyes," said Bruce Inglangasak, a Kaktovik resident. "It's not just the air. Every time it rains our fish get it and our whales get it. You can feel the difference when you hold the fish now. The flesh is not as firm as it once was."

Another factor is Alaska Gov. Frank Murkowski's proposal to offer offshore drilling leases off the coast of ANWR, in waters crucial to the Inupiat's traditional whale hunting.

"There's a lot of people changing their mind about this," said Robert Thompson, an Inupiat hunter and guide who is leading the backlash.

Major spill of drilling fluids on North Slope

Ironically, given my last post, comes the news today that one of the largest spills of oil drilling fluids ever in Alaska occurred Saturday at the Kuparuk oil field run by ConocoPhillips.

As many as 80 people were working to contain the spill, estimated at nearly 112,000 gallons, the Anchorage Daily News reported. The spilled material is mostly water with only a trace of crude oil. But much of the water is seawater, and the salt can kill tundra plant life just as crude oil can. It would rank as the third-largest spill ever on the North Slope.

Conoco is majority owner of Kuparuk, with BP having a large minority interest. The other owners are Unocal, ExxonMobil and ChevronTexaco.

BP allegedly fails to report spills at Prudhoe Bay

The spills of drilling fluids allegedly occured at British Petroleum's Prudhoe Bay operation, about 100 miles west of ANWR, on Dec. 3, 2004, and July 31, 2003. State law requires oil companies to report any spills over 55 gallons. These did, and they were not reported.

BP officials said they didn't report the spills because those involved didn't believe they were required to do so, according to United Press International.

Investigators said the spills didn't pose an environmental hazard. But it's this kind of incident that critics seize on when they question the supposed "clean and modern" operation of arctic oil drilling.

MoJo suggests Florida Republican is key vote

Mother Jones Magazine suggests in this recent article that Sen. Mel Martinez, R-Fla., may be a crucial fence-sitter in ANWR's fate due to secret handshakes he has made with the Bush Administration over offshore drilling in Florida.

Martinez won election to his seat on a promise that he would not allow offshore oil drilling in Florida. According to MoJo, he agreed to support ANWR drilling in the notorious March 16 vote on the condition that the feds would extend a drilling ban off the Florida coast.

But critics at home say Martinez didn't go far enough, and they're pushing him to do more. That pressure may force Martinez to withdraw his support for ANWR drilling, which could be crucial if the issue remains part of the federal budget bill.

Monday, March 28, 2005

Are you unwittingly supporting ANWR drilling?

The public face of support for oil drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge is Arctic Power, a consortium of oil companies and interest groups in Alaska. But a little-known group behind them is an affiliated nonprofit called the Energy Stewardship Alliance. Its members include a number of mainstream organizations that may represent YOU.

Does their support for ANWR represent your views?

Among these groups is the National Assocation of Counties, a trade association that includes two-thirds of all county governments in America and 80 percent of the nation's population. Since one of the most recent national opinion polls shows that only 38 percent of Americans support ANWR drilling, there seems to be a major disconnect here.

Another member is the American Farm Bureau Federation, which strongly supports renewable, farm-grown alternative fuels such as ethanol and biodiesel. President Bush and Republicans in Congress have given only token and reluctant support to such programs, while instead diverting the nation's attention and resources toward the limited oil under ANWR.

I could go on with examples like this. Other members are the National Black Chamber of Commerce, and senior citizens' organizations such as the 60 Plus Association and United Seniors Association.

The point is that Arctic Power and the Energy Stewardship Alliance are out there speaking for literally millions of Americans who simply do not share their views. If you belong to one of these groups, or your county does, you might want to let them know how you feel.

Canada: ANWR drilling a "big mistake"

According to Petroleum News, the government of Canada had a "subdued" response to recent U.S. moves toward drilling for oil in ANWR. Our northern neighbor, which also shares a border with ANWR, continues to oppose oil development in the refuge because of its potential impact to caribou herds and native people.

Environment Minister Stéphane Dion said Canada would continue to pressure the U.S. to avoid drilling, which it considers a "big mistake." He said he would press for a meeting soon with U.S. Interior Secretary Gale Norton to sure the caribou are protected.

The Canadian embassy also indicated it would hold the U.S. to a 1987 treaty which requires each side to consult the other before undertaking any activities that would cause a “long term adverse impact” on the Porcupine caribou herd.

Who will get ANWR oil?

Our politicians are fond of saying that ANWR should be drilled because it will reduce our dependence on imported crude oil. But will it?

As this article makes clear, it's very likely the precious crude from irreplaceable ANWR will go to fuel cars in China, Japan and other newly car-obsessed Asian nations. The piece quotes industry analyst Dave Pursell saying that ANWR oil will go first to the U.S. West Coast, and from there into the global marketplace. Writer Monica Perin says it is "considered likely by many experts" that ANWR oil will go to Asia.

Pundit No. 2, Michelle Michot Foss of the University of Houston, then adds: "anything that helps global supply-demand balance helps us."

I fail to see the logic in this, given that ANWR oil will be a tiny percentage of global output. But then I'm not an industry analyst. The point is this: Politicians shouldn't be claiming that ANWR offsets oil imports. If ANWR oil isn't staying at home, we'll still be importing an equivalent amount from elsewhere.

Shift to simple energy path urged

Max Booth, a member of the Council on Foreign Relations, suggests in a column published today in The Day newspaper of New London, Conn., that a shift to plug-in hybrid cars and alternative fuels is a better path for the nation than ANWR drilling. (Link may require subscription.)

Booth supports a proposal by Set America Free calling for an increase in gas taxes to fund a $12 billion shift in the transportation sector over the next four years. This would shift the auto industry and refueling infrastructure toward hybrid cars and renewable ethanol fuel.

There is much disagreement about the efficacy of ethanol, especially the fact that it may not be the most efficient or environmentally friendly fuel. It takes a lot of energy to produce ethanol, for instance, potentially resulting in a net increase in global warming gases.

But it's hard to argue with Booth's premise that this is a more sensible path than fuel-cell cars, which still lie in the distant future; and also more sensible than ANWR drilling, which will produce only a small gain in domestic oil production -- again at some distant point in the future.

I suspect most Americans would be willing to pay higher gas taxes if it meant getting out from under OPEC's thumb. I certainly would.

Booth says the only obstacle to this shift is political. He concludes: "Absent some political courage in both parties, we will continue to be at OPEC's mercy."

Saturday, March 26, 2005

Noteworthy: Fossil Fools Day is April 1

The ever-vigilant sustainablog turned me on to Fossil Fools Day, a protest that urges students and others to pledge to reduce their fuel consumption and suggest new protest actions.

The protest is organized by Energy Action, a youth-oriented campaign for clean energy. Some proposed actions are pretty clever, such as "adopting" a local Ford dealer to convince them to push their corporation to build more fuel-efficient vehicles. You can even download an "Adopt-a-Dealer Action Kit" that suggests meeting with a local Ford dealer to convince them to call for a boost in corporate mpg, followed by protest actions if they don't agree.

MSNBC offers ANWR poll

The MSNBC network has created a poll on ANWR at itswebsite. It offers a simple question: "Should Congress authorize drilling in a small area of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge?"

I must say, the question itself may inject some bias into the poll, as there is argument about just how "small" of an area would be affected by drilling.

N.H. paper criticizes senator; He responds - weakly

The Nashua Telegraph newspaper criticized Sen. Judd Gregg (R) for his support of the March 16 amendment of the federal budget bill to permit ANWR drilling. The paper's strongly worded March 19 editorial said: "he has more concern for oil companies than he does for the environment," adding that his reputation as an environmentalist has been "greatly diminished."

Gregg was in an important position for the crucial March 16 vote as chairman of the Senate Budget Committee. The Telegraph noted that when asked why he supported the ANWR amendment, Gregg said: “the president asked for it and we’re trying to do what the president asked for.”

Gregg's response, published in the Telegraph today, is longer than the original editorial. Yet he couldn't find room to address ANWR or energy issues directly at all. Instead, it's a recitation of his prior record on environmental issues.

Somehow, this may be less than convincing to many of his New Hampshire constituents.

Friday, March 25, 2005

In Focus: Ice road

Originally uploaded by BlogAdmin.
This photo shows the remnants of an ice road used for seismic testing at ANWR in 1984, still plainly visible in the tundra when this photo was taken the following year. (Source: U.S. Dept. of Interior)

Wilderness Society leads "green ribbon" campaign

The Wilderness Society is leading a broad coalition of groups in a green ribbon campaign to spread awareness about the need to protect the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.

Called, the campaign urges supporters to wear a green ribbon, tie them around trees, etc., and be prepared to respond when people ask. The website includes a one-page form that participants can download and hand out to inquirers. It also includes easy links to write members of Congress and local newspapers.

" is not intended to detract from any other projects that use a ribbon symbol," the site declares. "The green ribbon campaign is part of creating the buzz that Members of Congress will not be able to ignore."

The project is also affiliated with, which urges people to reduce their energy consumption for national security and to protect the environment.

Editorial: Detroit Free Press opposes drilling

The paper urged Michigan's two senators, Democrats Carl Levin and Debbie Stabenow, to hold firm against ANWR drilling as the federal budget bill moves forward.

"At stake is also what this action says about us as Americans who'd rather run heavy equipment and pipelines through the most sensitive natural areas than invest in conservation measures or alternative sources of energy," the editorial states.

Oliver Sacks: Subsidize hybrids, not ANWR drilling

Oliver Sacks, one of America's most original contemporary thinkers, writes in a
column for today's N.Y. Times about his "love" for his new Honda Accord hybrid, which he acquired by trading in his Lexus. (Link may require subscription.)

If half of U.S. vehicles were converted to such hybrids, he notes, the nation could save 50 billion gallons of gasoline annually -- equal to one-fifth of the "reasonable estimates" for ANWR's oil reserves.

He calls for the federal tax deduction for hybrid vehicle purchases to be continued and increased. At present, it drops from $2,000 to $500 next year, then goes away in 2007.

"There are many ways to save energy, but few are as easy as this," he writes. "We need to do a great deal more to encourage all kinds of conservation, but especially alternative-energy vehicles, which can contribute enormous oil savings and reduce pollution with no change in lifestyle."

Sacks is the author of numerous books, including "An Anthropologist on Mars," "Awakenings" and "The Island of the Colorblind." He is a clinical professor of neurology at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine.

Hubbert colleague: ANWR drilling is 'side issue'

Kenneth S. Deffeyes, a former colleague of "Peak Oil" theorist M. King Hubbert, writes in an op-ed for today's New York Times that oil drilling at ANWR is a "side issue" distracting our attention from the real problem: the looming decline in global oil production. (Link may require subscription.)

"My own independent research places the peak of world oil production late this year or early in 2006," writes Deffeyes. "A permanent drop in world oil production will have serious consequences. In addition to the economic blow, there will be the psychological effect of accepting that there are limits to an important energy resource."

Deffeyes, professor emeritus of geology at Princeton and author of "Beyond Oil: The View from Hubbert's Peak," says we should focus our attention on efficient diesel cars, wind and nuclear energy to survive the peak. "Conservation, although costly in most cases, will have the largest impact," he writes.

Thursday, March 24, 2005 asks: What's ANWR worth?

Dave Roberts of the offbeat environmental journalism website asks readers: 'What would you trade for ANWR drilling if the Republicans were bargaining?'

The question is academic, since Republicans AREN'T in a bargaining mood. Nevertheless, he wants to know what concessions you'd give to allow drilling? Full compliance with the Kyoto global warming treaty? Greater subsidies for clean energy?

Roberts writes: "It's time enviros gave up the notion that their every goal is an absolute moral imperative and started thinking about their relative worth, what's important and what isn't, what can be compromised on and what can't. This is just a prod to get that sort of thinking started."

His readers don't seem to agree. With 110 votes cast at this writing, most wouldn't give an inch to allow ANWR drilling.

'Ben & Jerry's' founder behind oil company petition

Ben Cohen, one of the founders of Ben & Jerry's Ice Cream, is behind an online petition urging oil companies not to drill in ANWR.

A "grassroots education and advocacy organization" called TrueMajority is hosting the petition at its website. TrueMajority is a project of Priorities, Inc., a nonprofit founded by Cohen.

The petition is a simple way for the public to urge the CEOs of major oil companies not to drill in ANWR.

"If you refuse to make this pledge," the petition reads, "and do drill in the Arctic Refuge, you can count on losing my business. I will immediately boycott your gas stations, forever."

U.S. geologist 'bewildered' by 2,000-acre drilling number

The Wall Street Journal's Numbers Guy, Carl Bialik, today writes that the U.S. Geological Survey project chief for ANWR expressed "bewilderment" at the oft-quoted statement that only 2,000 acres will be disturbed in the refuge by oil drilling.

The source is Dave Houseknecht, a USGS research geologist and co-project chief for the agency's work in the North Slope of Alaska, which includes ANWR.

Drilling advocates are fond of the 2,000-acre figure, which tends to minimize in the public's mind the potential resource damage that could occur. But Bialik says Houseknecht expressed "bewilderment" at the figure, because no one knows what oil fields will be drilled, and such a small footprint would require more-expensive technology, which would change the calculation of how much oil is cost-effective to recover. "It's difficult to know precisely where discoveries will be made, and what kind of environmental regulations will be in effect, when and if drilling occurs," Houseknecht said.

Also, wells will likely be spread out, and the 2,000 acres covers only the wells and surrounding areas, but not other required elements, like roads and pipelines. Bialik writes that surface area is a lousy way to measure the impact of roads and pipelines, because they're narrow but have the effect of dividing up large swaths of land, potentially affecting wildlife migration. "Saying the pipeline occupies a very tiny footprint is like saying a table occupies only the space the legs take up on the floor," Houseknecht says.

N.H. senator defends ANWR drilling

Republican Sen. Judd Gregg writes in an op-ed piece for The Union Leader that conservation and alternatives are not enough to secure America's energy future. Without ANWR drilling, he says, "we jeopardize the economic and environmental security of our children and future generations."

At least 14 die in Texas refinery blast

Other people were unaccounted for after the BP refinery blast, which also injured at least 100. The plant in Texas City is BP's largest in America, processing some 470,000 barrels of crude a day, and the explosion occured when the plant was shut down for annual maintenance.

British Petroleum officials said the plant would remain in operation. But within hours of the explosion, oil prices rose 47 cents and BP's share price fell on the New York Stock Exhange.

McKenzie Pipeline: The overlooked battle in Canada

The San Francisco Chronicle reports on Canada's effort to build the $6 billionMcKenzie Pipeline in its western Arctic territories bordering Alaska. The pipeline would tap natural gas to fuel a project 800 miles south in Alberta to strip-mine tar sands for converstion into petroleum fuel, a global resource said to be second only to Saudi Arabia's oil reserves.

The project is likely to transform the Canadian Arctic in many ways. Native tribes call it a government grab for tribal lands. Enviros say it's a boondoggle that will accelerate global warming.

Three tribes have allied themselves with the oil and gas companies behind the pipeline. One, ironically, is the Gwichin, which opposes ANWR drilling. Fighting the project is the Deh Cho First Nation, which occupies the southern third of the pipeline route.

The proposal is incredibly resource-intensive and would occur over a region the size of Florida. Two tons of sand must be processed to make a single 42-gallon barrel of oil. Then there are the resource impacts associated with the pipeline.

The Canadian government is not required to seek Parliament's approval for the project, and construction could start as soon as 2007. Meanwhile, U.S. officials say Canada seeks a competitive advantage for its own pipeline by delaying approval of a separate 3,500-mile gas pipeline from Alaska's North Slope into Canada. Revenues from that pipeline are said to be crucial to developing oil at ANWR.

The U.S. is also concerned about China's efforts to obtain long-term contracts for the tar-sands oil. "We're in a race for energy supplies, and we can't allow China to win this one," Frank Gaffney of the Center for Security Policy told the Chron.

Wednesday, March 23, 2005

Senate vote triggers ecotour rush

Tour guides serving Arctic National Wildlife Refuge expect a boost in demand for tours in the wake of last week's U.S. Senate vote in support of oil drilling in the refuge. Apparently many people want to see the pristine refuge before it is ravaged by the hunt for oil.

Alaska politicians, almost all of them enthusiastic drilling backers, see the business interests of refuge tour guides as tiny compared to the potential economic benefits of ANWR development.

Guide Wade Willis told the Reuters news agency that many people who book tours with his company want to see the wildlife refuge before the landscape is dotted with roads, pipeline and lodging facilities.

Knitting bloggers protest drilling

The blogNake-id Knits has spawned a knitting protest to condemn the U.S. Senate's action to push ahead with oil drilling at ANWR. Ironically, and perhaps appropriately, they are knitting garments from the fur of the Musk Ox, that unique ungulate native to ANWR.

The linked post includes a helpful listing of places to obtain the ox fur, called qiviut, which is considered a "status fiber" and commands a high price. It is said to be eight times warmer by weight than wool, and working with it is "like knitting with butterfly wings."

Editorial: USA Today sez alternatives matter more

While essentially supporting ANWR drilling to increase oil supplies, this USA Today editorial published yesterday says finding viable energy alternatives is more important.

Editorial: Milwaukee Journal opposes drilling

This editorial appeared Monday in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. Here's an excerpt:

"The best reason to drill in the refuge is that it could reduce, however modestly, U.S. dependence on foreign oil. That's a worthy goal. But dependence could be far more significantly reduced by cutting back on our consumption of oil and finding alternative sources of power."

Welcome and a great first link...

Welcome to ANWR News, a blog dedicated to independent, broad-based information about the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. With the Senate's vote last week to include ANWR oil drilling in the federal budget bill, I thought it was past time for a quality source of information on all things ANWR.

The Senate's move puts the reality of ANWR drilling closer, perhaps, than it has ever been. We also live in a time when sorting fact from fiction has become more difficult. I hope this becomes your go-to blog for all the latest and most interesting ANWR developments. You will hear from industry, environmentlists, scientists, residents and government, not just one or the other. The link field on your right will grow as we move along, hopefully becoming a dependable working library for background on the refuge.

In that spirit, here's a great piece to kick things off. It's a rich and unbiased online backgrounder on ANWR from the folks at Learners Online, a service of the wonderful Newspapers in Education program. It is intended for middle- and high-school-age readers, but it's a great introduction to the conflict filled with useful links.