Visit Your Local PBS Station PBS Home PBS Home Programs A-Z TV Schedules Watch Video Donate Shop PBS Search PBS
Extreme Oil
Photo of workers fueling airplane
The Journey The History The Science
BTC Pipeline Alaska Angola Ecuador

Map of Alaska
In This Section
Azerbaijan
Georgia
Turkey
Alaska
Angola
Ecuador
send us your feedback
email this page to a friend
Alaska

Politics

Though the Trans-Alaskan Pipeline reached its peak production volume of 2.1 million barrels of oil per day in 1988, due to the decline of Alaska's oil fields that number has slipped to less than a million barrels per day today, totaling about 17 percent of the U.S.'s total annual production. As a nation, America produces only about 38% of the oil it consumes, and this percentage is decreasing as demand rises.

Photo of pipeline
At its peak, the Trans-Alaskan Pipeline transported 2.1 million barrels per day.
With this in mind, President George W. Bush has aggressively pursued the development of new domestic oil prospects to wean America from foreign oil. The President's efforts have come to focus on what is potentially the most oil-rich area left in America: the Coastal Plain region along the northern shore of Alaska's Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR). In February of 2003, the President submitted a proposal to allow drilling in ANWR as an attachment to his annual budget plan. The provision did not pass, but it brought the future of oil in Alaska to the forefront of political debate in Washington.

Proponents of drilling in ANWR, such as Alaska's own Republican Senator Lisa Murkowski, maintain that only 2,000 of the coastal plain's 1.5 million acres would be made available for oil exploration and that advanced technologies such as directional drilling, which allows for many areas within an oil reservoir to be reached from a single platform, would lessen the overall invasiveness of the process. But opponents such Senator Barbara Boxer (Dem., CA) note that the 2,000 acres scouted for drilling are spaced out throughout the coastal plain, thus endangering the entire area. In addition, environmentalists point to places such as Dead Horse, a busy industrial complex that supports the development of Prudhoe Bay's oil fields, as proof that infringement upon ANWR would include the construction of new roads, airports, and laying miles of pipeline.

Perhaps most troubling is that ANWR's coastal plains oil reserves have been estimated to contain only a six-month supply of oil given current U.S. demand. Regardless of how the ANWR issue is resolved in the future, it is a given that as America's demand for oil continues to rise there will be increased pressure to find new ways to satisfy the nation's thirst for oil.

Go to: Angola
About the Series For Teachers Resources Pledge Sitemap