A major confrontation between those who want to protect the environment and those who want to develop oil reserves is building up in northern Alaska.
GV AERIAL VIEW Mountains in Alaska, United Stated, north of the Arctic Circle (4 shots)
SV Drilling at oil rig
GV Caribou called the Porcupine herd during crossing over from Canada (2 shots)
GV PAN Coastline (2 shots)
GV Off-shore oil rigs at work (3 shots)
GV Foxes (4 shots)
SV INTERIOR, Interior Secretary Andress' department
SV ZOOM OUT TO GV Oil rig and pipeline (3 shots)
GV Sunset over the Alaskan sea
BURRINGTON: "These mountains north of the Arctic circle are the gateway to a vast marshy bog, the William O'Douglas Arctic Wildlife range. Few men have ever set foot here. It's a land of permafrost, fragile tundra -- bleak and pristine. Environmentalists want to keep it that way. Their fear: an invasion of oil wells. But the main concern: caribou. The largest caribou herd in North America, the Porcupine herd, crosses over from Canada in the spring. The effort to discourage exploration has recently run up against computer studies by the U.S. Geological Survey. Analysing what's already known, the computer indicates this coastal plain on the range may hold vast amounts of oil. These rigs are offshore but rock formations here continue under the wildlife range. Four wells were completed over the past year. All four struck gas and oil, a major discovery by Dome Petroleum. The confrontation is classic -- oil or wilderness. At Prudhoe Bay some animals have accommodated but environmentalists in the Carter administration have tried to keep the wildlife range off limits to man. Interior Secretary Andress has said it's the last place we want to look for oil and gas. But his department's objectivity has been questioned. The Comptroller General has accused it of playing down the oil potential of the range. As of now the Alaska Wilderness Bills forbid drilling on the wildlife range. The Senate ve???ion might allow test drilling in five years after a study but production probably couldn't start before the year two-thousand. Geologists point out with some urgency that the Prudhoe field will reach its peak in five years and start to decline with nothing in sight to take its place."
REPORTER: DAVID BURRINGTON
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Background: A major confrontation between those who want to protect the environment and those who want to develop oil reserves is building up in northern Alaska. The United States administration says the William O'Douglas wildlife refuge, on the border of the region's North Slope, is of little significance except as a wilderness area for herds of caribou - the North American reindeer. But geologists say the range's coastal plain is the most promising oil area in the United States. The NBC's David Burrington reports: