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Drilling for oil in ANWAR-Truth! & Disputed!

Forwarded Email about the Drilling for Oil in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge-Truth! & Disputed!

Summary of eRumor:
A message that includes pictures and graphics about the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge in Alaska.  It says that the controversial portion of ANWAR where oil drilling could take place is desolate and not reflected by the pretty pictures circulated by opponents of oil drilling in ANWAR.  The message also says that animals, such as caribou and bears, are not bothered by the drilling that has already taken place in nearby Prudhoe Bay and that Al Gore said the government should work to raise gas prices to $5 a gallon.  The bottom line, according to the email, is that the Democrats who are opposed to the oil drilling in ANWAR are lying.
The Truth:
The Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWAR) has been a topic of hot debate between proponents of drilling for oil and environmentalists who are opposed to the drilling.
ANWAR was established in 1980 as a part of The Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act.  The act deferred more permanent decisions about an area of a 1.5 million acre coastal plain, according to the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), “in recognition of the area’s potentially enormous oil and gas resources and its importance as wildlife habitat.”
The USGS says that studies of the coastal plan have shown that “technically recoverable oil within the entire assessment area is estimated to be between 5.7 and 16.0 billion barrels.”
The eRumor accurately shows the location and size of ANWAR and the appearance of the coastal plain.
Opponents of the drilling say that capturing the petroleum in ANWAR will not solve any U.S. oil crisis so why risk the harm to wildlife there?  Specifically, they say that the exploration and drilling activities would take place in the refuge’s most vital areas for such as calving grounds for the porcupine caribou herd and den locations for one of America’s two polar bear populations.  They are especially concerned about the impact of any oil spills on the area, which they contend could affect the entire ecosystem.
Supporters of drilling in ANWAR argue that the U.S. needs to use domestic petroleum and that ANWAR could supply gas and oil for 30 to 50 years.  The point to the massive oil fields at nearby Prudhoe Bay and say that drilling there has not negatively affected wildlife.  The Central Arctic caribou herd is friendly with the facilities and has grown from 3,000 to as high as 27,000 over the past 20 years.  Additionally, they say, drilling activity in ANWR would be during the winter months when such wildlife as the caribou are not there.
The part of the eRumor about Al Gore, Democrats, and gas prices is a political comment.  We could not find an occasion when Al Gore advocated $5-per-gallon gasoline, but many environmentalists are in favor of steps that would reduce the use of fossil fuels.  It’s possible this is a reference to a speech he gave in the U.S. Senate on April 11, 1991 in which he voiced support of a National Academy of Sciences study.  He said it, “rings the alarm bells again and tells us of the urgent need to take action now to combat global warming.”  Among the recommendations of the study was “restructuring energy prices to more accurately reflect environmental costs.”   
The picture of the caribou in the email was taken by photographer Carl Donohue and more of his work can be seen on his website.  Carl told TruthOrFiction.com that the Prudhoe Bay caribou do not calve in the area open to oil drilling but that the USGS study concluded that human activity such as development and drilling does have an effect on caribou and denning polar bear, resulting in lower birth rates.
Click for Donohue’s site
Updated 12/04/08