ANWR Debate


ANWR Debate

Goal of the Exercise:

To familiarize you with the various environmental impacts, conflicts, and politics surrounding the exploration and development of energy resources located on public lands.  It will also help you to learn how to analyze policy proposals and to develop your skills of argument and persuasion.  This semester, the class debate will focus on President Bush's recent proposal to open up a portion of the Alaska National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR) for oil and natural gas exploration and development. 

Issue for Debate

Should the Congress approve President Bush's proposal to open up a portion of ANWR for oil and gas exploration and development?


The Alaska National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR) was created by Congress in 1980 when President Jimmy Carter signed Alaska's National Interest Lands Conservation Act that expanded the initial wilderness area designated pursuant to the 1964 Wilderness Act.   ANWR is approximately 19.5 million acres in northeastern Alaska, a region larger than the states of New Hampshire, Vermont, and Massachusetts combined.  ANWR's wilderness area is off limits to the construction of roads, buildings, and pipelines.  It is also off limits to most vehicles, timber harvesting, and to mining.  Activities allowed are mostly limited to hiking, camping, sport fishing, nonmotarized boating, and similar low intensive recreational pursuits.  Aircraft are not allowed to fly in and out of the refuge.  Section 1002 is a 1.5 million acre stretch of coastal tundra within the ANWR about 30 miles wide and about 100 miles long.  Only Congress has the authority to decide whether oil and gas exploration and development will be allowed in this part of the refuge or whether Section 1002 will become part of the protected wilderness.  The question for debate pertains to whether Congress should open up some portion of Section 1002 for oil and gas exploration and development.  

Class Debate

The assignment is relatively simple.  To ensure that each side is equal in number, each student will be assigned to either the pro or the con position. You may pair up with up to one other student to research your positions and prepare the written assignment described below.  You should begin by familiarizing yourself with the proposal to open up a portion of ANWR for oil and natural gas exploration and development by reading Bush's National Energy Policy and the reserve reading, both of which have background information.  You may also want to examine a recent GAO report on oil and gas activities in national wildlife refugesHandouts on various points of view on the ANWR debate are also available. The following web sites contain a variety of competing facts and opinions that should help you formulate the arguments you will advance during the debate:
Official Arctic National Wildlife Refuge site
Bush's National Energy Policy - Reliable, Affordable, and Environmentally Sound Energy for America's Future
GAO Report (GAO-02_64R) on oil and gas activities in national wildlife refuges
The Arctic National Wildlife Refuge: A Special Report
105th Congress Report
Alliance for America
Northern Alaska Environmental Center
Links to various perspectives on opening up ANWR
Sierra Club's position
NRDC's position
Greenpeace/Arctic Action
Alaska Federation of Natives
Time to Permit Drilling in the Arctic Refuge by the Heritage Foundation
Alaska Conservation Foundation
USGS Fact Sheet
Canadian position on development in ANWR
The format of the debate will be as follows.  The pro and con groups will appoint members to argue key points in their side in the debate.  Each side will be allowed to make a short opening statement of up to 5 minutes in order to present your main arguments for or against the proposal.  After each side has presented its position, there will be a 2 minute rebuttal period.  The other members of the pro and con side of the audience will each be allowed to ask questions to the opposing side's debate team.  The questions will alternate back and forth as time permits.  The instructor will moderate the question and answer period.  Both debate teams should come prepared to answer questions from the instructor as well.   The question and answer period will continue as time permits (probably around 25 minutes).  Each debate team will then be allowed 2 minutes to make a short closing statement.  

Some class time will be provided for each side to organize and decide on who will represent their views on the debate team.  Different members of the debate team are expected to present the opening statement, take the lead in question and answer period, and deliver your closing remarks.  You may need to meet outside of class to prepare for the debate if you do not use your class time effectively.  All students are expected to participate in the debate by either delivering the opening remarks, rebuttal, closing statement, or by asking or answering a question posed by the other side or the instructor.  Thus, regardless of which position you have been assigned, you are expected to be fully informed about the arguments for and against the proposal and come prepared to ask questions.  Poor participation in the debate will have an adverse affect on your class participation grade. 


Written Assignment - Opinion Editorial

To ensure you come prepared to actively participate in the class debate, you will be required to prepare a written summary of your arguments whether they are for or against this proposal.  The format of this assignment will be an "op-ed" (opinion editorial) article with a length of about 750 words (most word processing programs have a word count function).  See one of the many op-ed handouts over the course of the semester for guidance on what styles are appropriate.    To receive an "A", it is expected that your editorial will be similar in style, substance, and quality to submit to a local paper for publication.  You may work with up to one other student to prepare your op-ed article.  If you choose this option, you will each receive the same grade for the assignment.  

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