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The question of whether to drill for oil in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge stands clearly on the energy issues table. The Arctic National Wildlife Refuge is a 1.5 million-acre parcel of wilderness area bordering the Arctic Ocean to the north and the Trans-Alaska Pipeline to the south. The Arctic National Wildlife Refuge is currently off limits to oil exploration and production. Because of the ecological hazardsHow much oil is in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge? In May 2000, the Energy Information Administration released it’s most recent publication, Potential Oil Production from the Coastal Plain of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge: Updated Assessment, May 2000 which concluded,

“This is the largest unexplored, potentially productive onshore basin in the United States…..There is a 95 percent probability that at least 5.7 billion barrels of oil are recoverable.”

Security arguments basically break down into a question of U.S. dependence on oil imports. While interdependence best characterizes the whole of global political relations, with no state able to exert total independence in any economic, environmental or security matter, the question of oil dependence historically ranks high on the U.S. national security agenda. In the past three decades, for example, the United States population has experienced both the Persian Gulf and an oil initiated global financial crises.

Environmental concerns attached to the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge oil production displays concerns expressed about oil production in the United States throughout the past three decades. Along with specific concerns linked to production accidents and ecosystem stability, the issue of an oil based fossil-fueled economy also raises questions in the international environmental realm. Increased oil exploration and production activities at the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge also pose potential problems for the entire Arctic region ecosystem.Given the continued diversity of the global oil market, and anticipated production increases all around the world, it does not seem to step beyond the realm of reasonableness to suggest stability in American national security with respect to future oil imports without the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge oil drilling. If there were a 95% chance of recovering at least 5.7 billion barrels of oil in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge and the United States imports approximately 7 million barrels of oil per day, the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge oil would only account for two years worth of oil imports. What we see happening today with respect to the oil market is really no oil shortage, only a temporarily slowdown in oil production.


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