Sierra Club Opposes ANWR Drilling

DATE: 5/22/01
Today the Sierra Club joined the National Resources Defense Council in opposing drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR), listing - almost word for word - the same misleading reasons for their opposition.

Today we will depart from our usual format and provide you with quick point-by-point responses to the charges made.
Sierra Club Charge: The U.S. Geological Survey estimates there are less than 3.2 billion barrels of recoverable oil in ANWR's coastal plain - not enough to justify drilling. The amount of oil in ANWR is too small to affect world oil prices. 
Response: In fact, many experts believe daily production rates in ANWR could equal that of Saudi Arabia.  

Sierra Club Charge: Drilling in ANWR is so complex, oil won't be available for 7 to 10 years. 
Response: The industry has estimated it will take 10 years. This makes it more important that we start the process now.  

Sierra Club Charge: Since 95 percent of Alaska's north slope is open to drilling, the five percent which is ANWR should remain off limits.  
Response: That is where the oil and gas are. 

Sierra Club Charge: Of the 19 million acres of ANWR, oil companies want to drill in the refuge's 1.5 million acre coastal plain, an area the size of Connecticut. 
Response: In fact, the industry seeks to drill in only 2,000 acres, which is 1/1000th of the total area. It is the complexity of drilling that makes this possible. Modern methods of horizontal drilling allow dozens of wells into a 10-mile radius from a single location. 

Sierra Club Charge: The coastal plain is the migrating and calving area for a 129,000 member caribou herd as well as home to bear and many other animals.  
Response:When drilling began in nearby Prudhoe Bay, the caribou herd there consisted of 6,000 animals. Today that herd has grown to 28,000. Wildlife was completely unharmed there and, with new less-invasive drilling methods, wildlife will not be harmed in ANWR. In fact, pipelines have become "highways" for bear (the pipeline keeps their paws warm) and caribou comfortably migrate through oil fields. For photos of this and other information go to, then click on "photo gallery" on the left side of the page and click on any photo to blow it up.  

Sierra Club Charge: The Gwich'in Natives depend on the caribou migration to sustain their way of life. 
Response: The Alaska Federation of Natives, which represents Alaska's 100,000 natives, has endorsed drilling in ANWR. They know it won't interfere with caribou migration, for those who care. For those less interested in migration, they know it is the road to a better standard of living as oil royalties lift them from poverty. 

By Tom Randall, Director of Environmental and Regulatory Affairs, The National Center Public Policy Research

Contact the author at: 773-857-5086 or
The National Center for Public Policy Research, Chicago office
3712 North Broadway ­ PMB 279
Chicago, IL 60613