Former Alaska State Senator Al Adams Favors Oil Development
Editor's Note: The following editorial written by Alaska State Senator Al Adams ran in the Inuvik Drum, a Northern Canadian newspaper, on December 18, 1997. Thank you for running the editorial, "Time to ignore the 1002 rhetoric." I do believe in the long run, sound public policy on oil development in the coastal plain will prevail.

As a state senator from Alaska representing the North Slope region, including the coastal plain of ANWR, I have been working to convince the national leaders to allow oil and gas development in the coastal plain.

I've heard the arguments for and against development, and I offer some of my own observations to the debate.

Opponents of opening the ANWR coastal plain paint a sympathetic and stirring picture of pristine caribou and howling wolves. They argue that ANWR could only supply the U.S. with six months of oil and the caribou would be destroyed.

But the facts show a different picture. Currently, Alaska is supplying up to 20 percent of the domestically produced oil in the United States, and the potential is there in the coastal plain to increase North American production.

The caribou that dominate much of the debate migrate through this region during a six-week period each year. Wolves are found primarily in the foothills of the Brooks Range, generally within the region permanently protected.

Anti-development forces don't tell you that more than $50 billion has been spent across the United States and Canada in the development of the Alaskan oil fields at Prudhoe Bay.

Nor do they mention the thousands of jobs that have been generated from Alaska oil production.

But perhaps more importantly, they fail to outline the extensive tiers of environmental regulation that direct oil development in Alaska. Oil producers must comply with stringent state, federal and local laws and regulations, which provide the most restrictive circumstances for oil development in the world.

In Alaska, oil production on the North Slope has enabled residents to school their children in their home village.

It has given them access to running water and the ability to install appropriate health care facilities within their villages. Inhabitants of the North Slope have been able to move from a welfare and subsistence-based economy towards a jobs and subsistence economy. The history of arctic oil development speaks for itself. The footprint of oil development has been reduced by more than 70 percent in 20 years. Millions of dollars have been spent on the North Slope to guarantee that oil development results in minimal impact.

A vast majority of Alaska's 600,000 inhabitants support opening the coastal plain. We know from the experience at Prudhoe Bay that oil development in this day and age will have minimal - if any - negative impact to the wildlife, to the native people and to the environment.

And the caribou which roam our tundra will be protected - because that is a priority for all Alaskans.