Why is it that so many opinion pieces opposed to any energy development in a tiny portion of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge use photos that misrepresent the area where the activity would occur?
Consider the photo to the left (larger version in context here). That’s the picture used in a special section on energy of The Hill to illustrate an anti-ANWR piece by Representative Dave Reichert, R-WA.
Now, we’re not beating up on either The Hill — their special sections are a great way to see arguments pro-and-con on issues of the day — or Reichert, a solid supporter of manufacturing. People of good will can disagree on ANWR. (And speaking from experience, editors tend to grab the first good photo available when slapping together a special section.)
It’s only that these illustrations ARE JUST WRONG. (“Hey, can you get the musk ox in the shot? BE-A-U-TI-FUL!”) Drilling would occur nowhere near these picturesque mountains — always shown in the green, green summer, without biting gnats — but instead in a tiny space of a marsh that’s frozen nine months of the year. Here’s a fair description of the proposed drilling area (from a citizens group that supports development):
At its widest points, the Coastal Plain is about 100 miles across and about 30 miles deep and covers an area slightly larger than the state of Delaware. Along the coastal area, the plain is an almost featureless expanse, barren and dotted with thousands of unconnected small ponds.
And all development would occur when those unconnected small ponds and tundra are frozen solid. As Jonah Goldberg wrote in an eye-opening cover piece in 2001 on ANWR for The National Review:
On the very northern cusp of ANWR is what is commonly called the coastal plain, a tract of flat tundra largely indistinguishable from other spots along the coast and throughout the region. This comprises about 8 percent of the refuge-but an even smaller fraction of its pretty scenery. Some of this area is already off-limits to oil exploration, permanently. Nonetheless, the U.S. Geological Survey — seconded by industry experts-believes there could be untold billions of barrels of oil in the swath still legally available. The oil industry says it would need to use only 2,000 acres-an area no bigger than Dulles Airport, outside D.C.-to get that oil. This footprint would be 50 times smaller than the Montana ranch owned by Ted Turner, who helps bankroll efforts to keep ANWR off-limits.
America’s energy crisis is real. We’ve lost millions of jobs in the United States because of high and volatile oil and natural gas prices, yet policymakers prevent development — environmentally safe — of our abundant domestic energy supplies.
If environmental pristinsanity makes impossible the small-scale development in a minute spot of ANWR, well, then, you can’t develop anywhere in the United States. So all we ask is a fair debate — and some accurate, representative photos. Like the one on this page.
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