Time Bemoans 'Doomed' Wildlife Refuge

By Chris Sutton
August 9, 2001

The liberal media hated that the House passed major parts of President Bush's energy development plan. They were quick to frame the opening of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR) to oil and natural gas collection as a gain for big oil at the expense of the environment.

Yet no news medium played as shameless a card as Time Magazine. A Web article entitled "ANWR: the last call of the wild" charges Bush's interest in ANWR as that of an oilman, not a politician interested in solving the energy crisis.

The region, according to the article, is "the same 18.9-million-acre tract in the northeast corner of Alaska once coveted by George H. W. Bush - and all other past, present and future oilmen."

ANWR is "in the crosshairs," laments the subheading, and later the article threatens "substantial subsurface exploration," the thought of which apparently "sent shivers up America's spine."

The introduction wages this ideological war on Bush and his team without pretension of objectivity, then launches into a sentimental travel diary of an eyewitness trip through ANWR.

This point of view makes the vast, unfair assumption that the implementation of Bush's energy bill would spell the death of this pristine and ecologically important region.

Clearly, exploration and collection of oil and natural gas is intrusive on a fragile ecosystem. Yet what the article fails to even hint at is the possibility of coexistence between scattered industry and native flora and fauna.

Area 1002, the part of ANWR that would be opened up to exploration and drilling, constitutes only 4% of Alaska's coastal plain and foothills zones, the type of ecosystem significantly sensitive to intrusion, according to the government's ANWR Web site.

More balanced news reporting on the issue has pointed out that, given new drilling technologies, the "footprint" of any oil exploration or drilling would be limited to 2,000 acres. That's less than 2% of the 1.5 million-acre wildlife refuge.

Also, according to the same government Web site, "technological advances in oil and gas exploration and development have reduced some of the harmful environmental effects associated with those activities."

For example, recent development in similar environments has taken a new approach to road construction. Laying gravel is permanent and causes large tracts of alkaline dust, but by spraying water, which freezes, forming a smooth, drivable surface, technicians leave nary a trace when they withdraw.

Rep. Jim Hansen (R.-Utah) said that many of the concerns about the effects on wildlife were voiced in the planning stages of the trans-Alaska pipeline, yet, he notes, caribou and other wildlife continue to flourish around it.

No one with any credibility would argue that large-scale exploitation of the region for oil and natural gas would be cost-free. It is a calculated compromise on the part of the President weighing both the importance of ecological sustainability and the myriad of benefits, in fact imperatives, of securing a solution to the energy crisis.

According to White House Spokesman Ari Fleischer, "the supplies that come out of [ANWR] are so massive, they will last for an extended, long period of time."

The U.S.'s dependency on OPEC-supplied oil has affected both our international prestige as well as our diplomatic power in our relationships with Middle Eastern countries - Iraq and the ubiquitous Saddam Hussein, for example.

Given U.S. need for self-determination over oil sources as well as the increasingly dangerous energy crisis, acquiring a domestic source of oil is imperative and worthy of sacrifice.

"We cannot conserve our way out of the energy challenges that face us," said Hansen. "We cannot research or design our way out of them. We cannot get through this with windmills and solar panels."

Time Magazine columnists should remind themselves before they voice their opinions under pretense of objectivity that one-sided reporting never serves the national interest.

Chris Sutton is an intern at Accuracy in Media.

For questions or comments, please contact Intern@AIM.org.

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