Trump Administration Auctions Off Millions of Acres in Alaska for Oil Exploration
Dec 6, 2017: The US Bureau of Land Management is auctioning off 10 million acres of oil and gas exploration leases in Alaska today, the Daily Caller reports.
The leases are located 150 miles west of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR), and constitute nearly half of the 23 million acres available for lease. Furthermore, estimates show that the leases are rich in oil. A 2010 US Geological Survey estimates that they contain some 896 million barrels of recoverable oil and 52.8 trillion cubic feet of natural gas.
This represents the largest single lease sale in the history of the area. The previous record was set back in 2004, according to the Alaska Journal of Commerce.
Congress is also fighting to open up more land in the ANWR for exploration, although this is by no means a sure thing. Both the Democratic party, and environmental nonprofits are staunchly against the development.
For example, Nicole Whittington-Evans, regional director for the Wilderness Society of Alaska criticized the move, saying:
Combined with efforts to open the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge for oil and gas drilling, this announcement about the Western Arctic reflects the current administration’s wholesale approach to turning over America’s public lands to the highest bidders for development . . . Americans should not stand by and allow our public lands to be plundered without restraint.
While the Wilderness Society does raise a valid point—the environment is precious and worth protecting—there is little evidence, other than speculation, to suggest that development will significantly degrade the natural environment. By-and-large, oil companies have a good environmental track record in Alaska.
Likewise, we cannot forget that every barrel of oil extracted in America means one less barrel imported from places like Venezuela or Nigeria, which are far more environmentally risky.