Thursday, December 22, 2005

ANWR Idiocy

I once spent a year living in central Alaska and traveled as far south as Delta Junction and northward to the Brooks Range. Alaska is something I know about from personal experience. It is vast and the human footprint on it so faint as to be negligible. ANWR oil extraction would entail a footprint about the size of L.A. International Airport. It could not have a significant adverse impact on the ecology of the North Slope and could very well be beneficial.

The Central Arctic Herd of caribou that migrates through and calves in the area to be occupied by Prudhoe Bay oil field facilities was carefully counted by air before development began. The herd consisted of about 3,000 caribou in 1970. The size of the herd increased rapidly as the oil fields were developed and has since stabilized at about 23,000. Herd sizes may increase or decline year to year. They grow during mild winters and decline during exceptionally severe ones. In 1998 the Central Arctic Herd numbered 38,552. Nevertheless, environmentalists paradoxically argue that oil extraction has harmed the herd by disrupting its pattern of migration and calving.

The Western Arctic Herd went through a steep decline in the 1970s. It fell from 242,000 animals before the Trans-Alaska pipeline to a low of 75,000 after its completion. It then recovered and numbers 490,000 animals today. On the whole, there are far, far more caribou in Alaska now than before oil development began. Furthermore, there is no scientific evidence that any other species of plant or animal has declined as a result of Alaskan oil extraction.

One of the factors that contributed to the dramatic growth in herds is that oil development provided well-paying jobs to Native Alaskans normally relying on caribou as their primary winter food source. A Native Alaskan family living off the land needs to kill and eat about one caribou a week to survive winter. If the family relies on a team of sled dogs it will need to kill a caribou about every five days. It doesn't take many hunter-gatherers to hunt a species to extinction. Native Americans repeatedly did so before European immigration.

Given a complete absence of evidence of any measurable harm suffered by Alaskan plant and animal life environmentalists and their stooges in Congress can do little more than claim harm from oil spills and emissions. However, in the absence of scientific evidence of a harmful effect on any species of plant or animal those events must be considered causes without effects.

Perhaps the most fatuous argument against ANWR oil extraction is that there isn’t enough oil to make it worthwhile. That is a decision best made by the free market rather than bureaucrats, Greenies and venal politicians. Significantly increasing worldwide oil production is going to take many development efforts that achieve little individually and a great deal together. If no profit can be made extracting oil from the ANWR no extraction will take place. If a profit can be made, extraction should take place.


Blogger Moved Elsewhere said...

Yellowstone park is a national treasure. It is accessible to all Americans and affords a pleasurable experience to all visitors. The same cannot be said of the Alaskan North Slope.

Nothing has intrinsic value. Nothing is good or beautiful in the absence of a beholder who finds it so.

2:28 PM  

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