Since the Middle East has become a political tinderbox, the West has had to look inside its own borders to meet its growing demand for oil. But areas that are politically safe seem to be environmentally sensitive. The last few pristine landscapes in North America may soon be opened up to oil investors and environmentalists are horrified.
ALASKA'S Prudhoe Bay operation has supplied North Americans with a politically safe domestic source of oil for decades and, its proponents say, demonstrates that oil and the environment can go together.
Local citizens have grown benefitted from the oil resources and don't pay state income taxes. In Alaska there is little opposition to the drilling. But there have been ecological disasters, like the Valdez oil spill in Prince William Sound and now the wells are running dry sooner than expected.
As Prudhoe Bay's oil operation winds down, oil companies are hoping to drill in the Arctic National Wildlife Reserve (ANWR), the last pristine expanse on the continent. These coastal plains are rich in oil but also home to ecologically sensitive caribou breeding grounds.
Oil companies claim that modern technology will reduce the environmental 'footprint' of their operations to a tiny percentage of the reserve. Locals who live on or nearby the reserve are divided. Some say their communities need the money the oil will bring while others fear that their lifestyle will be changed forever.
Environmentalists in the south have successfully brought the project to a halt for now. They're convinced that the destruction of the ANWR nature reserve is too high a price to pay for what they claim will amount to a six month supply of oil.
Both Prudhoe Bay and any new oil developments in Alaska will depend on the Alaskan pipeline to bring the oil to markets in the U.S. The 800 mile long pipeline was built almost thirty years ago. Environmental critics say its becoming more vulnerable to leaks. The oil companies strongly disagree.
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May 07, 2007, 15:27:21
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