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Jeffersonian - Students debate oil drilling in ANWR: The wilderness should be preserved

On your family vacation to a park or wildlife reserve in this country, don't you expect to see the natural beauty of the area? This is the experience you should have at all parks and reserves in the country, including the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR). Some people want to change this by drilling for oil in this protected area. Drilling for oil in ANWR should not be allowed because it will hurt the environment and will not produce enough oil to benefit our country economically.

The debate on whether to go into this area, which is along the northern shores of Alaska, has been going on for several decades now. It's the largest protected wilderness in our country. Research and exploration shows oil reserves have been found under a portion of the land. Some people believe that we should begin to drill for oil, while others strongly disagree and believe that this area should remain protected.

ANWR was created to protect the valuable environment and wildlife of that area and this is the way it should remain. We have a duty and responsibility to the wildlife there. Despite what many may believe, ANWR is home to hundreds of species of animals and birds. Peregrine falcons make their home in ANWR. Polar bears, wolves, caribou and musk oxen make their home in ANWR and walrus and whales make their home off the shores of ANWR. These are a few of the species that live in ANWR. Drilling will have a severe impact on all of them. Although it's said that drilling will only take place on a few thousand acres, this statement is easily discredited. This projected number does not include all the roads, pipelines, airports, drill sites and gravel mines that will be scattered through the refuge.

All the equipment and construction would negatively impact the native species, not to mention destroy the environment. The habitat of the animals would change and be disrupted by these developments. In some cases, their homes or source of food could be affected. These things could lead to the decline or endangerment of these species. The change or loss of habitat is not the only problem for these species. Endangerment could also come from spills and pollution. John Kerry stated that, "Oil companies operating the Trans-Alaska Pipeline and the Prudhoe Bay fields spill oil or other chemicals more than once a day and release more than twice as much nitrogen-oxide pollution as Washington, D.C., does." These dangerous events could disrupt the environment and wildlife.

Not only is it a bad idea to drill for environmental reasons, it's also a bad idea for economic reasons. If we allow the drilling of oil in this area, it would only produce a small percent of our oil needs. This means we would still be dependent on oil from other countries. Marianne Lavelle, a reporter for U.S News and World Report, wrote that this increased production would lower the price of oil by "no more than $1.44 per barrel." This decrease would have very little impact, and other companies would decrease supplies to match the oil produced from ANWR. Doing this would mean there would be no change in the price of oil. A more effective way to reach energy independence would be to invest in renewable resources. These investments would have a larger impact on our dependency and could create renewable energy sources for generations to come.

With little benefit to be gained from drilling in the ANWR, it would be best to leave the area protected. After all, ANWR is not a business district or oil field, it is home to a beautiful landscape filled with many species. Drilling here doesn't provide economic gains to outweigh the loss of precious environment. It will have very little impact on our energy dependence and the price reduction is questionable. ANWR cannot protect itself; it needs our support.