After he was married in May 2008, Buck Wolf and his new bride headed north to spend their honeymoon in the wilds of Alaska. They visited Fairbanks, Anchorage, Mt. Mckinley and Juno. They saw grizzly bears and they hiked the tundra.
Before he voyaged to “The Last Frontier,” Wolf said he was opposed to the whole of idea of drilling for oil in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR). After listening to Alaska State residents offer him their reasons, however, Wolf said he has to admit, the argument for offshore drilling is compelling.
As a journalist living in New York, not to mention About.com’s Guide to Weird News, Wolf says he is used to being pitched for stories, but not like this.
“People in Alaska aggressively talk up ANWR,” he said. “I felt like I was being lobbied. They’re really feeling it.”
There are a couple forces at work, Wolf said. First, Alaskan residents pay higher prices for their gas than residents in other US states do, and everything is far away. The state is as big as a third of the continental US, which means Alaskans have to drive further to get their gas than most people do in other states. Finally, because of the rugged terrain up there, everybody has big cars.
“It’s every person you speak to who wants to open it up," Wolf said. "Even the guy at the Sharper Image at the airport mentioned it. It's not just country the clubbers ... although they want it, too.”
Apparently, the support for the ANWR project – as well as offshore oil drilling – seems to be trickling from the top down. In June 2008, Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, perhaps the most popular governor in the country at the time, sent a letter to Congress, asking them to enact legislation that would allow oil and gas development in a small portion of ANWR.
From her web site:
Governor Palin stressed the need to enact an energy policy that includes oil and gas production from domestic sources, since failure to enact a sound energy policy is having real-life consequences. The Governor reminded members of Congress that the footprint of development would be less than 2,000 acres. She also assured members that any development would be conducted in a responsible and environmentally safe manner.Palin remains a vocal supporter of oil companies who participate in the Alaskan Oil Pipeline, because those companies share the wealth with state residents in the form of stipends. If ANWR were opened for business, state residents might see a decrease in costs of oil and gas prices, or, at the very least, receive reimbursements because of the stipends.
Despite what he saw and heard from the people in Alaska, Wolfe still opposes offshore oil drilling, but his opinion is tempered with understanding.
“I don’t think it’s a great policy,” Wolf said. “I don’t think there are any serious benefits. Our needs are too great.”
Wolf notes that much of the oil processed domestically is exported to nations in Asia. Nevertheless, the people of Alaska offer a persuasive argument for opening ANWR, he said.
“Dick Cheney and Condoleezza Rice go to Saudi Arabia with hat in hand, begging them to give us more oil,” Wolf said. “You can’t blame the Saudis for not upping production when we’re not willing to do it as well. Unless we can say we’re doing everything we can to combat high oil prices, it’s a little hard to ask someone else to, especially when we’re hoarding 70 percent of our oil reserves.”
Although he probably won’t vote for him, Wolfe says he likes John McCain’s comments about letting states make their own offshore oil drilling decisions.
“What he was saying about local indigenous people deciding their own future, I think he was saying that because he knows people in Alaska overwhelmingly want it,” Wolf said. “In my opinion, if they want to look at an oil well outside their back door, that’s their decision, not mine. I find that part of his argument persuasive.”