The debate over oil and gas drilling in Alaska’s Arctic National Wildlife Refuge has been in the limelight a lot lately — but what about energy exploitation in the rest of the state? On Friday, the Bush administration released a report on the likely environmental impact of new drilling in the National Petroleum Reserve, an Indiana-sized chunk of Alaska set aside in 1923 as an energy source for the U.S. Navy. The administration is weighing the benefits of leasing off parts of the reserve to private energy companies. The U.S. Geological Survey estimates that the reserve is home to between 6 billion and 13 billion barrels of oil; it is also home to spotted seals, arctic peregrine falcons, and beluga whales, among other species. Environmentalists fear that Interior Secretary Gale Norton will call for oil and gas leasing in nearly all of the 9 million acres of the reserve’s currently untouched northwest corner.
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