Recently, the United States Senate Energy and Natural Resources committee held a hearing on the proposed opening of a small section of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR) to oil and natural gas development. Known as the Coastal Plain or “1002 Area”, this section of ANWR is estimated to hold over 10 billion barrels of oil and would generate over $1.1 billion in federal revenue in the first ten years alone.
But despite the clear benefits development will bring to the region’s communities, Alaska and the United States, activist groups located are working hard to block development, extinguishing these benefits in the process. To help cut through the mistruths being spread about responsible oil and gas development in ANWR, below are the facts surrounding the ten most commonly perpetuated activist myths.
Myth One: “When are they going to stop holding us all hostage to vote for the Arctic Wildlife Refuge being opened, when in reality, oil companies today aren’t interested in drilling there at this price?” – Sen. Maria Cantwell
Fact: The 1002 Area remains the largest conventional onshore prospect in all of North America. This means significant benefit, and interest, as the Congressional Budget Office estimates that opening ANWR would result in $2.2 billion in bonus bids – just for the opportunity to produce in the area, without even factoring in the estimated $150 billion and $296 billion in federal revenue that could be generated over the lifetime of development.
Myth Two: “It’s pure fantasy that the Arctic refuge is going to generate anywhere close to the kind of revenues that are being spouted about right now.” Adam Kolton, Alaska Wilderness League
Fact: In addition to the $2.2 billion in bonus bids the CBO predicts between 2018 and 2027, the Office also estimates that development in the 1002 Area would generate over $1.1 billion in royalties.
Myth Three: “The high Arctic is almost unbearably beautiful…For decades these images have been enough to protect the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge from oil drilling – it is, after all, a wildlife refuge, an people who’ve never been there can nonetheless deduce simply from that name that it is no place for oil rigs.” – Bill McKibben, 350.org
Fact: The Arctic is a huge and diverse place. Parts of it are unbearably beautiful; others are more suitable for development. The region of the 1002 area that would be opened is around 2,000 acres, a small fraction of the entire 1002 plain, which is around 1.5 million acres, and an even smaller fraction of ANWR’s 19.3 million acres, and is not designated as Wilderness Lands. Under the Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act of 1980, the 1002 area’s 1.5 million acres along the Coastal Plan was designated specifically for potential oil and gas exploration
Myth Four: “Even if they don’t spill a drop, they are industrializing a wilderness area.” Athan Manuel, Sierra Club
Fact: The proposed legislation states that surface development would take place on no more than 2,000 acres helping to minimize the potential impact. To put this in perspective, that’s just 0.0001 percent of ANWR’s total acreage, and an area about 1/5th the size of Dulles Airport. Additionally, technological advances in production have helped reduce drilling pad size from 65 acres to just 12 acres, while the area accessible from a single pad has grown from three square miles to 125 square miles – an over 4,000 percent increase.
Myth Five: “Opening up the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge is nothing more than a Big Oil polar payout.’” – Senator Edward Markey
Fact: Development is supported by a majority of Alaskans, the Alaska State Legislature, as well as many of the North Slope tribal and village leadership. In addition 1002 Area development is estimated to bring in between $150 billion to $296 billion in new federal revenue, significantly benefiting the rest of the United States.
Fact: Including leases, royalties and taxes (state, local and federal) development could generate up to $440 billion over the lifetime of the project. Further oil and gas production in the 1002 area has been estimated to create between 55,000 and 130,000 jobs.
Myth Seven: “I think our colleagues are understanding how that budget deficit [in Alaska] is part of the motivation,” – Senator Maria Cantwell
Fact: In addition to providing over $1.1 billion in revenue through royalties and $2.2 billion in bonus bids –shared between the state and federal government – unlocking the estimated 10.4 billion barrels of oil in the 1002 Area would improve U.S. energy security for decades to come by reducing our reliance on foreign imports, as well as lowing prices at the pump.
Myth Eight: “Drilling in one of the most spectacular landscapes in America, a place sacred to native tribes and critical for local wildlife – for what amounts to little more than a political stunt – is entirely unacceptable” – Senator Michael Bennet
Fact: Development in the 1002 Area would especially benefit Alaska Native communities in the region, such as the Inupiat, who rely development for employment and economic growth. In fact, the Arctic Slope Regional Corporation represents the interest of 13,000 Inupiat shareholders who live in the North Slope, and strongly support ANWR oil and gas production.
Myth Nine: Simply put, there is no shortage of federal oil and gas leases in Alaska. It’s not even close. I don’t know why it is necessary to open a pristine natural area like the refuge,” Senator Al Franken
Fact: The 1002 Area represents the largest conventional oil reserves in the entire United States, with reserves comparable to developing roughly 280 million acres of federal land elsewhere.
Myth: “The question is, what’s next? What other wildlife refuge in America are they going to mandate drilling in? And your area, and your state, might be next.” – Senator Maria Cantwell
Fact: Production on federal land already takes place across the country. According the U.S. Bureau of Land Management, production is currently taking place on 12 million acres across the U.S, with over 762 million barrels of oil produced on federal lands last year alone.. This shows that development can take place on federal lands safely and effectively.