Alaska’s Oil Drilling Debate Essay


The debate to drill oil in Alaska’s Arctic National Wildlife Refuge has been one that has become increasingly popular since the September 11 attacks on the United States, primarily because of our dependency on foreign oil (Ladenson, 2002). The two major proponents regarding this debate, Majority leader Tom Daschle (Democrat, South Dakota) and House Resource committee chairman, Jim Hansen (Republican, Utah) are on two different sides of the track. Two major stakeholders in this debate are, the native peoples of the ANWR, and the people of the United States. The war in Iraq among other factors has caused a massive increase in oil prices from the years of 2002-2008, resulting in a clear outcry from the American people. Legal measures to begin drilling in Alaska from the years ranging from 1987 through 1995 have been proposed and defeated, resulting on a deadly dependence for petroleum (Landenson, 2002).

The decision to drill oil in the ANWR is an ethical decision not just for the United States, but also to the native people of Alaska’s wildlife refuge. Most of the Eskimos in the area favor oil leasing primarily because of the opportunities exploration may provide for their economy, which, for the most part, is still primarily rural. Furthermore, the decision to drill proves to be ethical to the people of the United States because it would decrease their dependence on foreign oil as well as reduce oil prices in the United States and other countries such as the UK, which have seen gas prices rise to a whopping 230 pounds per barrel (Jones, 2006).

The environmental stake holders involved in this debate demonstrated shared interest in the impact on petroleum refinement and its implications on the environment. For example, many environmentalists claim that section 1002, the section that provides 1.5 million acres to be set aside for petroleum study, would severely impact the caribou herd, forcing them to migrate away from the area. The Caribou are a native animal that provide a primary source of food for native tribes, such as the Gwich’in Indians, located in the area. Furthermore, environmentalist view producing more petroleum oil as only a short term solution to the problem of foreign oil dependency, and the only long term solution is to increase vehicle fuel efficiency.

Stakeholder Management-The Environment

The environmental stakeholder’s responsibilities for the ethical issues raised primarily include; introducing automobiles, such as Hybrids, that are far more fuel efficient than those currently on the market. Furthermore, in order to protect the current environment, measures should be taken to protect the caribous, a primary component necessary to the livelihood of the natives. Possible decisions the corporation’s could make in order to be in accordance with both those who wish to drill oil in Alaska, and those who argue against it due to environmental concerns vary. Those who are arguing against drilling are primarily concerned with two issues, one being the implications oil drilling will have and its effects on one of the most important species of animals to the native inhabitants, causing a disappearance or migration further away from the drilling sites. The second issue concerns a long term solution to our energy crisis, and foreign dependency, which is to develop more fuel efficient automobiles, providing a “true” reduction in oil consumption. The oil companies, as well as the automobile companies could produce hybrid cars that get double, and even triple, the gas mileage of current models in the market today. Examples that automobile companies are doing this can be seen with automobiles such as the Honda Insight, or the Toyota Prius, which get up to 70 miles per gallon (Wald, 2005). Furthermore, the Oil companies can preserve the current caribou species by designating much of the herd to a location that is still in the vicinity of the native peoples in the area. These solutions would satisfy both parties in the argument.  These steps would have little to no effect on our environment, if anything, it would be beneficial.

Conclusion and Recommendation

My recommendation to the oil drilling corporations, based on all the facts given, would be to make both sides of the debate happy. The oil companies can make the environmentalists happy by promising the safety of the caribou, as well as working with the automobile companies in developing affordable hybrid model cars. Furthermore, once these steps are taken, the oil companies can make those who are “for” drilling happy; by actually beginning to drill in the area once the environmental conditions are met.

Based on my analysis, five main reasons I have arrived at the conclusion of making both sides of the argument happy, by  reducing environmental destruction drilling might cause, as well as introduce more affordable hybrid model cars to the general public, would include; cheaper oil prices at the pump, reducing our dependence on foreign oil, truly developing a long term plan to permanently reduce the amount of petroleum oil we consume, enriching the native people of the Alaskan Wilderness economy, and lastly, beginning to research various alternative forms of energy for other industries besides the automobile industry. By accomplishing these things, an immediate need can be fulfilled by beginning to pump oil out of Alaska, and a long term need of reducing petroleum use, and foreign oil dependency can be achieved by developing alternative forms of energy  that are both cheaper and safer.

The positive implications of this plan include, developing cheaper, safer forms of energy, reducing foreign oil dependence, and introducing cars with a greater capacity for fuel efficiency. Some of the negative implications of this policy might include a short term period in which oil prices are rising and falling, and a transition period in which the population begins to purchase and use hybrid type vehicles, slowly stopping their usage of “traditional” automobiles. While these negative implications could prove to cause some financial difficulties for the automobile and oil industries, this may be dissolved if both industries begin to invest heavily in these types of technologies, if so, a whole new market with promising potential can be realized.

 Critics may dismiss some of these recommendations, especially those industries directly and indirectly affected by the demand and supply of petroleum products, by claiming they are simply not “cost effective,” but, if these policies are met, then new alternative and cheaper, both for the manufacturer and the consumer, forms of energy will be created. These representations can be defended by their uses in various parts of country, such as Hawaii. Military family bases in Oahu, Hawaii, which houses more than 5,300 homes for military personnel and their families, have solar panels on garage roofs that reduce the amount of traditional electricity needed, reducing cost for the consumer and reducing a need in the production thereof, reducing cost for energy related industries.


Revin, Andrew (2008) The Race between Two Form of Sunlight. The New York Times retrieved on March 7, 2009, from

Digby, Jones (2006) UK gas price soar on new warning. BBC News retrieved on March 7, 2009, from

Landenson, Robert (2002) Drilling in the Alaskan wilderness. Association for Practical and professional ethics. Retrieved March 7, 2009, from