The Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR) is located in Northeastern Alaska along the border of the Yukon and the Beaufort Sea and consists of 19,300,000 acres (78,000 km²) of pristine, untouched wilderness that spans five different ecological regions. (New World Encyclopedia, 2021). In fact, the ANWR supports the greatest diversity of flora and fauna than any other protected area within the Arctic Circle. The Refuge, created in 1960 under President Eisenhower is home to many diverse Arctic species including fish, caribou, muskoxen, wolverines, wolves, sea lions, seals, otters and more than 160 migratory and resident bird species. (New World Encyclopedia, 2021) In the early twenty-first century, the refuge became controversial territory as environmentalists and oil companies disputed drilling in the area. The government of the United States governs the refuge under public law and manages leases for development and production in the area.
Prior to the Trump Administration, drilling in the ANWR was prohibited however in December 2017, the passage of Public Law 115-97, administered “a competitive oil and natural gas program for the leasing, development, production and transportation of oil and natural gas”. (Reinke, 2018) In Trump’s final days in office, leases for drilling oil and gas were “auctioned off” (Gibbens, 2021) According to the Energy Information Administration (EIA), the oil fields would take three to four years to reach peak oil production, after which they should maintain peak production for three to four years and then decline until they reach a point where they are no longer profitable.” (Reinke, 2018)
As a non-renewable resource, this approximately decade-long project would massively affect the vulnerable species, plants and waterways in the area for immediate use of the oil and gas. For many reasons, oil drilling in the ANWR is absolutely not sustainable and since there are other greener options for energy, the government should focus time and energy in developing solar, wind, and hydro-energy sources rather than continuing to extract oil which has proven to have devastating effects on the environment. I do feel that oil extraction fits under the “tragedy of the commons” abuse scenario as the Trump Administration sought to carry out this project without concern for the future of the unique, valuable and significant flora and fauna in the ANWR or the planet. While the Biden Administration has put a halt to the project, a final resolution has not been determined and environmentalists are “pushing the administration to cancel the leases entirely and adopt more permanent protections for the wilderness area” (Gibbens, 2021).
I chose to write this postcard as I feel it is an extremely significant oil extraction project that could greatly affect the future of the circumpolar north. The ANWR as a significant breeding ground for the caribou and many bird species should be protected at all costs. Also, if there are other solutions to energy, why aren’t the governments focusing more on long-term sustainability as opposed to these “tragedy of the commons” abuse scenarios. Considering that the caribou and birds also migrate into the Yukon, the immediate impacts on the environment extend beyond the United States. The Reinke article states that “the oil taken from the ANWR would be a lighter crude oil not ideally suited for West Coast refineries” and therefore “could not be refined or used in the US” and it would “make more sense to export the oil”. (Reinke, 2018) It is frustrating to think that governments would risk the environment to the brink of extinction for monetary value and not even something that is an absolute necessity to their people. I would suggest that important leaders take a stand on promoting green energy, stewardship and sustainability to start a positive trend for others to follow.
“Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.” Arctic National Wildlife Refuge - New World Encyclopedia, 5 Nov. 2021, https://www.newworldencyclopedia.org/entry/Arctic_National_Wildlife_Refuge.
Gibbens, Sarah. “The Arctic National Wildlife Refuge Just Got a Reprieve-but It's Not Safe Yet.” Environment, National Geographic, 3 June 2021, https://www.nationalgeographic.com/environment/article/arctic-national-wildlife-refuge-oil-drilling-what-next.
Reinke, Jeff. “A Closer Look at Drilling the ANWR.” Thomasnet® - Product Sourcing and Supplier Discovery Platform - Find North American Manufacturers, Suppliers and Industrial Companies, 15 June 2018, https://www.thomasnet.com/insights/a-closer-look-at-drilling-the-anwr/.
Chapin III, F. Stuart, et al. “Ecosystem Stewardship: A Resilience Framework for Arctic Conservation.” Global Environmental Change, vol. 34, 10 July 2015, pp. 207–217., https://doi.org/10.1016/j.gloenvcha.2015.07.003.