Sustainability: Opening Alaska to Onshore Drilling Isn’t the Only Way to Create Jobs

Anya Steinmetz, Maroon-News Staff

The Trump Administration has moved forward in starting the process of selling leases to oil companies to drill in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge in Alaska as of Nov. 16. By beginning this formal process of opening the Refuge to drilling, the Administration is hoping to finalize their long term goal of opening Alaska up to onshore drilling. The measure is expected to be rushed as President Trump finishes out his last months in office before President-elect Joe Biden takes over. The Biden Administration will have the chance to try to reverse Trump’s work in the form of refusing to issue leases to gas companies. Trump has spoken about oil drilling in Alaska and other parts of the country for the entirety of his time in office. This step will add to the numerous environmental regulations that he has pulled back since entering office in 2016. The decision to undergo this opening of drilling has been met with criticism from environmentalists and the local Native American population in the area. On the contrary, the decision has been praised by locals who hope to see jobs created in the area, along with others who enjoy the prospect of U.S. drilled oil. 

The Arctic National Wildlife Refuge is the largest national wildlife refuge in the United States. It consists of almost 20 million acres of land and is home to many fish, land mammals, marine mammals and bird species. Many of these species’ livelihoods will be threatened if the area is opened to drilling. One species that is said to suffer are polar bears, who have migrated further south onto Alaskan land due to sea ice melting. Polar bears will be further displaced if the land is disrupted by trucks and drilling. The grizzly bear population will also be affected as trucks and other heavy gear will be moving over their dens for hibernation in the winter. The herd of 200,000 Porcupine Caribou that migrates to the region each summer will also be disturbed. Migratory bird species will be displaced, such as snowy owls, because their nests are built on the ground. The wildlife population in Alaska is already suffering due to climate change. The species of animals in this area will not be able to further withstand the effects of trucks and drilling taking over their habitats. 

The Gwich’in, a local Native American tribe in the area, will suffer due to the Caribou population being displaced. This tribe relies heavily on the Caribou herd for food and spiritual purposes.

The Trump Administration’s plan to open up the Refuge to drilling is ignorant towards environmental justice concerns. There is an utter lack of regard for protecting threatened species in the area; animal populations are already suffering and only will continue to do so if their habitat is disrupted. Trump’s plan will only further the damage that he has created to our environment over the last four years. He has continued to pull back protections and has continuously favored monetary gain over the environment. Not to mention that by opening up Alaska to drilling, greater reserves of fossil fuels will be extracted leading to further atmospheric devastation. The fact of the matter is that our Earth cannot withstand his destructive policies anymore. The number of jobs will increase in the Alaskan region due to his expansion on drilling, however, the continuous destruction of our planet will lead our economy to suffer from environmental disasters. Instead, jobs in renewable energy will both boost our economy and help the environment. In Trump’s last push for devastating the environment, he is going to make irreversible changes to the landscape of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, along with killing the local, living environment.