Mystery Pool Under the Plain

Should Alaska's wildlife refuge be opened to oil drilling?

Which deserves priority: preserving America's wilderness or finding a steady supply of domestic oil? In the aftermath of the Exxon Valdez spill in March 1989, the environment was the overwhelming favorite. But in the month since the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait, which has pushed oil prices from $17 a bbl. to more than $30, the political mood has changed rapidly. The prime focus of the debate is the coastal plain of Alaska's Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, a pristine wilderness area that may hold the largest untapped oil deposit in the U.S.

Situated on Alaska's North Slope just west of the Canadian...

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