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Alaska Oil Pictures

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Alaska has many resources and industry that provide revenue for the state, but most significant and sometimes controversial is oil. Never more than now, Alaska finds itself part of some of the most controversial discussions on oil drilling, the U.S. dependence on oil, global warming, and the economic recession. As the leading stock photo agency, Alaska Stock supplies the largest in-state collection of pictures of oil drilling in Alaska.

Oil rig at Prudhoe Bay, Alaska
Oil rig & flow lines at Prudhoe Bay
The ANWR, which was signed into law in 1973 by president Richard Nixon, has remained controversial ever since then.
Caribou in ANWR
Caribou in ANWR

The oil fields in Alaska are important because The United States' dependency on petroleum imports has risen considerably in the past twenty years. In our most recent past, we have seen prices rise upwards towards the $5.00/gallon mark which has seriously hurt the American economy.

Many believe that opening oil fields in Alaska would decrease U.S. dependency on petroleum imports from the Middle East and Latin America, boost the revenue of American oil companies, would create many American jobs, would lower the price of oil for American oil consumers, would increase federal, state, and local tax revenues, and lower our trade deficit.

Alaska's Northern Slope may hold large quantities of oil, but it is impossible to say for sure because exploration is banned by the ANWR. There may also be large quantities of petroleum reserves in other parts of Alaska. Guesses as to the extent of the richness of the oil reserves in Alaska are varied. According to three government studies since 1980, anywhere from 1.69 to 14.77 billion barrels of recoverable oil may be located at the protected ANWR.
Atigun Gorge, ANWR
Atigun Gorge, ANWR

However, others argue that the amount of extractable oil in Alaska's oil fields is only 5% or less of what the nation consumes and ANWR drilling is a short sighted, temporary fix to a much bigger problem facing the U.S. and the world....depedence on a non-renewable resource that is primarily supplied by foreign states and contributes to the ever-growing problem of global warming. In a report issued by the Energy Information Administration, or EIA, it's stated that if Congress gave the go-ahead to pump oil from Alaska's Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, the crude could begin flowing by 2013 and reach a peak of 876,000 barrels a day by 2025. But even at peak production, the EIA analysis said, the United States would still have to import two-thirds of its oil, as opposed to an expected 70 percent if the refuge's oil remained off the market.

The Gwich'in Indians who live in the ANWR also oppose oil production in their habitat because they are worried that it would destroy their traditional life style and might kill the caribou which they depend on for food and tools.

With the 2008 Presidential election, Alaska was thrust into the limelight with Senator McCain choosing Alaska's Governor Sarah Palin as his Vice Presidential running mate. During the Republican Party's National Convention, the chant "drill, baby, drill" became the crowd's mantra and Governor Palin promised to put Alaska on the front lines of reducing dependency on foreign oil by pushing to open up ANWR as well as move forward on a proposed natural gas pipeline.

Alaska's North Slope is not the only Alaskan oil producing facility. Oil and gas exploration have been a part of the history of the Kenai Peninsula Borough for
Historical oil well
Historic drill rig near Nome
nearly 150 years. The Kenai Peninsula Borough is the birth place of the Alaska oil and gas industry with the discovery of Alaska's first commercially viable oil find in the Swanson River field in 1957. With that discovery, the Cook Inlet Basin became a focal point for oil and gas exploration that is still ongoing today. The Swanson River discovery is often credited as one of the key factors in Alaska becoming the 49th State by showing that Alaska could support itself through resource development revenues instead of being a drain on the Federal government.

There are seven producing oil fields on the Kenai Peninsula which produce 30,000 barrels of oil per day. There are 17 gas fields which currently produce more than 485 million cubic feet of gas per day. Offshore fields in Cook Inlet are tapped by 15 production platforms. All oil from Cook Inlet is refined at a Nikiski refinery producing gasoline, propane, butane, jet fuel, heating fuel and asphalt for Alaska markets. A chemical plant in Nikiski uses Cook Inlet natural gas as a feedstock to manufacture more than 5,000 tons of fertilizer per day. The plant is the largest fertilizer complex on the West Coast and is a major supplier to the agriculture industry in the Western United States. A gas liquefaction plant at Nikiski, the only one of its type in North America, supplies 1.3 million barrels of liquefied natural gas to Japan each month.
Dril rig in Cook Inlet
Drill rig in Cook Inlet

Much of Alaska's wealth has been created from the oil industry. The Trans-Alaska pipeline built in the 70's brought the first riches to the Alaska people. The new-found state income was invested in the Alaska State Permanent Fund and continues to be divided amongst state residents annually. It is no wonder that the state's largley Republican base is in support of Alaska oil drilling. However, for the first time in 40 years, the Republican Senator, Ted Stevens, was defeated and the Democrat Mark Begich was voted in. And, of course, Democrat Barrack Obama has been elected President who in a League of Conservation Voters questionnaire stated: "I strongly reject drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge because it would irreversibly damage a protected national wildlife refuge without creating sufficient oil supplies to meaningfully affect the global market price or have a discernible impact on US energy security." For now, it appears that Alaska's ANWR oil reserves are exactly that...reserves.

Websites of interest:

Books of Interest:

Amazing Pipeline Stories: How Building the Trans-Alaska Pipeline Transformed Life in America's Last Frontier - While many would agree that the Cole clan of Fairbanks knows the story of the Interior, nobody can tell it like Dermot Cole. Cole is able to tell a tale about Alaska like no other Cole can. If you want to get a true slice of Interior life, then buy Dermot's books.

Crude Dreams: A Personal History of Oil & Politics in Alaska - "Crude Dreams" is a great read. Jack Roderick is a masterful storyteller. He provides us with an intriguing history of the oil industry in Alaska along with fascinating portraits of the unforgetable personalities who lived it. Any attempt to understand the oil business in Alaska is incomplete without this book. This is history at its very best.

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