ANWR: We Were Wrong!

By October 31, 2005Energy

As a result of our two posts this past week on the maps of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR), we have annoyed a few enviros who cried “foul!” The first map, as you might recall, was from that bastion of conservatism, the Washington Post. It showed the context of the size of the drilling area to the state of Alaska. “Not true!”, cried the enviros, the map shows a huge area for drilling. And so we provided yet another map — this one from the Alaska Department of Natural Resources — that showed the drilling area is even smaller. The burr under their saddle is our claim that the drilling footprint in ANWR is about the size of Dulles Airport.

Well, it takes a big blog to admit when they are wrong and so we do today, with heads hung low. The enviros were right — the drilling footprint is not the size of Dulles Airport. According to this from the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority, Dulles Airport sits on some 10,000 acres. According to this article from Rep. Don Young (R-AK), the drilling footprint of ANWR is 2,000 acres. (His article also talks about the interests of the native Inuits in drilling — but hey, who cares what the natives think, right?) So in other words, according to our calculations, Dulles Airport is five times the size of the drilling footprint of ANWR. We promise to correct all future posts accordingly.

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Join the discussion 12 Comments

  • Todd says:

    The poor suffering animals? Caribou like oil pipelines. They actually congregate around them to keep warm and move about freely.

    The bid to stop drilling in ANWR is just silly. As is my posting in this old blog. Drill away, says I! This ain’t wilderness. It’s flat land populated by unappetizing arctic grass.

    Notice the lies perpetrated by the Washington Post about the beauty of these lands:

    Now look at where they want to drill:

  • Chelsie Strehlow says:

    So, are you for or against drilling in the arctic? if you are for it then what about the poor, suffering animals? If you are against then what about the price of oil these days? Thank you for listening and hopefully answering my questons/coments. Write back.

    **Chelsie Strehlow**

  • Sandy says:

    A picture is worth 1,000 words. If you really think we can’t do better by the planet than the picture in this link shows, by our children and grandchildren, then support the drilling. I think we can do better.

  • Peter DaSilva says:

    The map of the 1002 area is correct. The argument that the oil industry will limit its footprint to just 2,000 square miles of that area is not, for reasons others have already discussed. In any case, as the old saying goes, the map is not the territory.

    If you want to take a larger view, consider how much of the North Slope is already being exploited: That is to say, all of it. Is it too much to ask that we set some wilderness aside for future generations? Or must we sacrifice every last scrap in order to keep our SUVs rolling and our 5-bedroom homes heated to a balmy 70 degrees in winter?

    Another thing to keep in mind: Even as the issue is being debated, the Arctic permafrost is melting. Without the frozen earth beneath them, the oil rigs and other infrastructure will buckle and sink. As the permafrost melts it will release vast amounts of methane — a far more potent greenhouse gas than CO2. Already, the Arctic is expected to become ice-free in summer by mid-century. As it does, there will be less and less ice to reflect solar energy away from the planet. These positive feedback loops could trigger runaway climate change. Against that context, all this debate about drilling the Arctic misses the real point. It’s time to get serious about climate change.

  • David Meyer says:

    Pat — if you’re serious about looking at this issue, I recommend you look at Peter Canby’s most recent New York Review of Books article on the subject.

    Canby does a solid job of defending ANWR against drilling.

  • Pat Cleary says:

    Again I say: post your own map. This is a blog after all, gives you the freedom to post your dissenting thoughts in real time. Let’s see a map that shows we’re wrong and answer this Q: How big a drilling footprint would you accept, here or anywhere in the US or OCS?

    Fair enough?

  • Ross says:

    On one side an almost mathematically strict interpretation of “the truth”. Pat Cleary passes the buck of his own critical thinking onto topographies provided by Authorities at a newspaper and an alaskan government agency. Meanwhile throwing his hands in the air as he is for some reason compelled to tell us that the Washington Post is “hardly an ally” of Industry. Yes we want to drive our cars and at the same time complain about pollution, but why doesn’t industry develope some alternatives with the recent spike in oil company profits. The “invisible hand” of capitalism is morally blind. We need to clean up our act. The profit motive does not produce the best products. A little more awareness of our impact on the environment will not hurt us. And barring that argument, we can do alot better than dipping into our emergency oil reserves up there in Alaska.

  • Pat Cleary says:

    Sorry if the truth irritates you. We used one map from the Washington Post — hardly an ally in this fight. The second was from the Alaska Dept of Natural Resources, a credible source, no? If you have a better one, let’s have it. We’re not making this stuff up, we’re digging through and getting the facts. It’s turned the tide on this fight. Everyone thus far has said 2,000 acres. that’s not our number. If you can substantiate anything, have at it. ‘Til then, you’re stuck with the truth. Sorry ’bout that.


    The actual drilling spread may be 500,000 to 1.5 million acres, depending on future compromises. The wells themselves may “only” touch down on 2,000 acres but that’s like saying mosquitos scattered all over your body “only” affect the pinpoints where their feet and snouts touch. The red square on your map makes it look like said mosquitos would all be contained on your thumb; a total lie.

    The problem with human activity is that it breaks up contiguous habitat and leaves a honeycomb of roads, canals, fences and ditches for animals to cross. If you look at satellite photos of the lower 48 there is scarcely a square mile (outside of parks) that doesn’t have some sort of road on it. There is something unique about unbroken land that Takers refuse to respect.

    Shale oil recovery would make ANWR look benign, and tar sand mining in Alberta is showing the beginnings of an ecological travesty. If “conserv”atives would start conserving something besides money we could lessen the need to tear up ever-more land for oil. If any other species behaved like Man we’d call it a plague.

  • Pat Cleary says:

    OK, so let me ask you both this: exactly how big a drilling footprint would you allow in ANWR, or anywhere? Let’s start there…

    Can we agree that the drilling area is much smaller than the 10,000-acre Dulles Airport and that ANWR — according to the Alaska Dept of Natural Resources — is the size of South Carolina?

    And, recall the dire predictions of the impact on the caribou herd when the pipeline went in. In fact, the herd increased six-fold since then. So much for hysteria.

  • They paved paradise and put up an oil rig says:

    Be realistic. Recent geographic surveys have shown that the potential oil resources in the Arctic Refuge are located in many small accumulations in complex geological formations, rather than in one giant field like Prudhoe Bay. The “2,000 acres” figure isn’t just a dishonest deflating of the size of the actual oil drilling impact, it’s bulls*&^t. You have to factor in miles and miles of roads, pipelines, power plants, processing plants, airports, gravel mines, powerlines et al. Whoever gets the contracts will have no limits on where to drill, they’ll be bulls in a china shop.

  • Chuck says:

    The 2000 acres is such B.S. propaganda. At 2 acres per drill site, big oil could build about 1000 drilling and production pads. The roads to connect them together and connect them for supply will require hundreds of miles of roads and airstrips. Oh, do they mean to include the roads in the 2000 acre carnage area?

    It is the roads built into the wilderness to gain access to each small drill site compsoing the 2,000 acres that will cause the damage.

    V.P. Chenney said that ANWR will only use ice roads but one of The Alaskan agencies says that using ice roads does not really mean that exactly. Responding to questions about this (only ice roads) in a recent environmental impact statement on oil development in Western Alaska, Interior Department officials wrote, “the term ‘roadless’ does not mean an absence of roads. Rather, it indicates an attempt to minimize the construction of permanent roads.” Who really believes these stories? It will be a land-based Valdez diaster.

    How are the gravel roads to be taken out at the end of the production? We hear that only ice roads will be used and that only 2,000 acres of land will be destroyed.

    How has the restoration of the old drillsites in Alaska gone? Any of those 30 year old exploration wells still waiting to be permanently plugged? Were the sites cleaned up and restored to original conditions? Seems the answer to these questions may hint at how ANWR will be handled.