top of page

Energy and Climate Impacts of Drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge

Updated: Aug 9, 2019

Arctic National Wildlife Refuge Caribou
Porcupine Caribou in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. Credit: Gary Braasch.

Analyzing new data from Energy Information Administration, Department of Interior, and the Department of Transportation that has surfaced since the 2017 tax bill, Symons Public Affairs authored a report on the energy and climate impacts of Arctic Coastal Plain drilling for the Alaska Wilderness League. 

BACKGROUND: Scores of GOP-sponsored anti-environmental measures were blocked in Congress from 2017-8, despite GOP control of both branches. Having fought my share of fights, it was a particularly scary time, with Trump beckoning for more polluter favors from the White House. Despite our many wins, the most destructive legislative setback on the environment that needs to be set right was the GOP's successful gambit of using their 2017 tax bill to open the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to oil leasing and development, leading to potentially irreversible damage to the Arctic's pristine Coastal Plain.

By circumventing the normal legislative process, Congress failed to examine the impacts of this move in the context of significantly changed energy and climate circumstances since Coastal Plain drilling was last examined. Especially relevant: The Trump Administration's efforts to simultaneously weaken fuel economy standards, increasing our oil dependency and taking money out of the pockets of American drivers, families, and truckers to further enrich global oil companies. 


(1) Opening the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to drilling will mostly benefit global oil companies as the U.S increases net oil exports.    

FACT: According to EIA, the U.S. will export 2.75 million barrels per day of oil by 2040, at least three times more oil than will be produced from the Arctic Coastal Plain (even at peak Arctic production).   

(2) By weakening clean car standards while opening the Arctic to drilling, Trump’s oil policies will increase the bill paid by American families, truckers and farmers at the gas pump by $200 million per day before a single barrel of Arctic oil is produced.

FACT: According to the Department of Transportation, "the increase in global petroleum prices that results from higher U.S. demand causes a transfer of revenue to oil producers worldwide from not only buyers of new cars and light trucks, but also other consumers of petroleum products in the U.S. and throughout the world, all of whom pay the higher price that results." 
FACT: Drivers will be paying $430 more at the pump annually by 2035, on average, as a result of Trump’s plans to drill in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge and weaken fuel economy standards.

(3) By weakening clean car standards while opening the Arctic to drilling, Trump’s oil policies will increase America’s oil dependency and weaken our energy security.  

FACT: For every gallon of gasoline produced from the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge between now and 2035, America’s gasoline consumption will increase by 36 gallons due to Trump’s rollback of fuel economy standards.   

(4) Locking in new oil infrastructure in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge creates a slow-fuse time bomb that will increase carbon emission in developing nations for decades.

FACT: The carbon pollution from burning all the oil in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge would be like doubling the pollution from every coal-fired power plant in the nation for three years. 

(5) Oil produced from the Coastal Plain will be exported to Asia and other developing nations, increasing their carbon emissions at a time when America expects deep emission cuts from these same countries in order to stabilize the climate. 

FACT: Turning the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge into a petroleum zone will likely be a costly “White Elephant” on the losing end of long-term global energy trends.
FACT: The development of the Coastal Plain is a short-sighted bet that we will fail to improve fuel efficiency of vehicles, fail to shift to alternative fuels, fail to expand oil-free transportation alternatives, and fail to slash carbon emissions from oil in the coming decades, despite the imperative of climate change. That is a bet against American ingenuity and our resolve to preserve a livable planet for our kids.


Recent Posts

See All


bottom of page