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Arctic Refuge Drilling

2002-4-25

This is the VOA SpecialEnglish ENVIRONMENT REPORT.

The Democratic-controlled United States Senate has voted to blockexploration for oil and gas in the Arctic National Wildlife Refugein the state of Alaska. Last week, the Senate rejected an attempt tobring to a vote an amendment allowing drilling holes in the groundto search for oil in the protected area.

This was a serious defeat forPresident Bush. Drilling for oil in the wildlife refuge in Alaskawas an important part of his energy program.

The Arctic National Wildlife Refuge covers almost eight-millionhectares of land. Republican members of the Senate wantedlegislation to permit oil exploration in part of the refuge.Scientists believe eighty percent of the oil is in that area.

Supporters of the plan said itwould have reduced oil imports. The United States imports aboutsixty percent of its oil. Supporters of the plan also said any risksto wildlife in the area could be reduced by restricting and closelysupervising the drilling.

Environmental groups and many Democrats in Congress opposeddrilling in the area. They said it would destroy the area and harmwildlife such as caribou, musk oxen and some kinds of birds. Theyalso said that the United States could reach the same goal ofreducing oil imports by producing vehicles that use less fuel.

Congress currently has a ban onoil exploration in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. However, theRepublican-led House of Representatives passed an energy bill lastyear that would permit drilling.

A recent American government study suggested that oil explorationin part of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge would not harmanimals. Administration officials had ordered the latest study aftera twelve-year government study found that oil exploration could harmcaribou and other wildlife in the refuge. The United StatesGeological Survey carried out both studies. The latest studyexamined drilling possibilities in limited areas of the coastalplain.

Experts do not know how much oil is underground in the ArcticNational Wildlife Refuge. Estimates are betweenthree-thousand-million and sixteen-thousand-million barrels.

However, a recent Energy Department report suggested that oilfrom the refuge would have resulted in only a small reduction inAmerican oil imports.

This VOA Special English ENVIRONMENT REPORT was written byCynthia Kirk.