Drilling in ANWR from an Economic Standpoint

Drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge has huge human rights and climate ramifications, but as the Trump administration has made clear that those matter little in the face of the Almighty Dolla’, let’s also look at the problem from an economic standpoint.

So, how much oil is in the Refuge? We don’t know. The findings from the one exploratory drill dug in the 1980s are known only by the companies that drilled it, but the USGS estimates there’s 4 to 11 billion gallons. Which may sound like a lot, until you realize there are 120 billion gallons elsewhere in the US, also undiscovered and far more easily retrieved.

As far as the retrievability of the Refuge’s oil, drilling in such a remote, northern location is an infrastructural and economical nightmare. There are no roads, melting permafrost is rampant, it’s dark much of the year, and any equipment needs to be brought in on barges. Drilling would be such an involved enterprise that oil from the Refuge wouldn’t be seen for at least a decade from the start of any project. A decade that should be used to expand clean energy, not drill for fossil fuels in the “last great American wilderness”, homeland of the Gwich’in and Inupiat people.

So, does drilling in the Refuge even make sense from an economic standpoint? No. So much so that even big banks have been pulling funding for future projects there left and right, citing that such an expensive and risky project isn’t worth the risk to human rights and the climate. 

Trumps may have opened ANWR to drilling, but the fight isn’t over. Check out the Advocacy Toolkit from Defend the Sacred AK here.

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