Fact Check

The Truth About ANWR

E-mail reports the truth about the environmental impact of drilling for oil in ANWR.

Published Jul 1, 2008

Claim:   E-mail reports the truth about the environmental impact of drilling for oil in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR)


Example:   [Collected via e-mail, June 2008]

First, do you know what ANWR is?

ANWR = Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.

Now, a comparison:

And some perspective ...


(it’s in the "ANWR Coastal Plain")


... and they are right ... these ARE photographs of ANWR

Isn't ANWR beautiful? Why should we drill here (and destroy) this beautiful place?

Well, that’s not exactly the truth.

Do you remember the map?

The map showed that the proposed drilling area is in the ANWR Coastal Plain.

Do those photographs look like a coastal plain to you?

What's going on here?

The answer is simple.

That is NOT where they are wanting to drill!

This is what the proposed exploration area ACTUALLY looks like in the winter:

And this is what it ACTUALLY looks like in the summer:


As you can see, the area where they are talking about drilling is a barren wasteland.

Oh, and they say that they are concerned about the effect on the local wildlife.

Here is a photo (shot during the summer) of the 'depleted wildlife' situation created by drilling around Prudhoe Bay. Don't you think that the Caribou really hate that drilling?

Here's that same spot during the winter:

Hey, this bear seems to really hate the pipeline near Prudhoe Bay, which accounts for 17% of U.S. domestic oil production.

Now, why do you think that the Democrats are LYING about ANWR?

Remember when Al Gore said that the government should work to ARTIFICIALLY raise gas prices to $5 a gallon?

Well, Al Gore and his fellow Democrats have almost reached their goal!

Now that you know that the Democrats have been lying, what are you going to do about it?

You can start by forwarding this to everyone you know, so that they will know the truth.

P.S.: Drilling does not "destroy." It creates jobs, resources and strengthens our economy — all while protecting our environment. Everyone benefits, even caribou.


Origins:   As the price of oil continues to rise with no predictable end in sight, debates over whether the U.S. can and should be producing more oil from domestic sources have been renewed. A primary focus of such

debates has been the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR), an area which encompasses 19 million acres in the northeast corner of Alaska. The ANWR issue is now a political hot potato batted back and forth between proponents of exploration and development in ANWR's Coastal Plain who assert that the area could become a valuable source of domestic oil production with minimal impact on the environment, and opponents who maintain that the potential advantages to be gained from drilling for oil in ANWR are far too small to offset the despoiling (and potential devastation) of a protected wildlife area.
The issue has been complicated by the uncertainty of many factors involved in the opening of ANWR to U.S. oil production, such as the total amount of oil underlying the area, the size of the oil fields that might be found in ANWR, the quality of the oil that might be found in ANWR, the potential production capacity of ANWR drilling operations, how long it would take before ANWR operations began providing significant amounts of oil for the U.S. market, what effects the oil extracted from ANWR would have on world oil supply and prices, and the environmental impacts of oil exploration and development in ANWR.

The e-mailed slide show reproduced above might serve a useful function in prompting the public to take a greater interest in all the issues surrounding the potential opening of ANWR to oil exploration, but the information it presents is scant and one-sided. Since the ANWR issue is far too extensive and complex to cover in detail here, we'll just provide a brief summary of both sides' arguments regarding points mentioned by the e-mailed slide show, with links to sites (on both sides of the issue) that provide greater detail:

  • Although the ANWR is small in size compared to the entirety of Alaska, at 19 million acres it is larger than ten other states. (As the third graphic shows, ANWR is about the size of the state of South Carolina.) Proponents point out that the proposed development area within the ANWR Coastal Plain is a relatively small patch of 2,000 acres, an area which constitutes roughly
    1/10,000 of the total acreage of the ANWR. Opponents maintain that a similar drilling operation in Alaska at Prudhoe Bay was originally designated to encompass only 2,100 acres but has since expanded to a total drilling footprint of 12,000 acres spread over 640,000 acres of the North Slope.
  • Proponents maintain that wildlife continues to flourish amid drilling and other oil production activities in other Arctic regions and would fare just as well near ANWR exploration facilities. Opponents assert that other North Slope oil development activities have caused an average of 504 spills per year since 1996, including "4,532 spills between 1996 and 2004 totaling more than 1.9 million gallons of toxic substances."
  • Proponents maintain that the proposed ANWR Coastal Plain development area is primarily a featureless, barren expanse that is frozen and windswept for most of the year, and therefore exploration and drilling activities would have minimal impact on wildlife in the immediate area (or in the greater ANWR). Opponents assert that environmental accidents can have devastating effects far outside the limited areas in which they originally occur.

Last updated:   2 July 2008

David Mikkelson founded the site now known as snopes.com back in 1994.

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