During his 1988 campaign for president, George H.W. Bush made a campaign promise to open a section of the Arctic National Wildlife Reserve (ANWR) to new oil drilling. But just two months into his single term, an Exxon tanker called Valdez smacked into a reef and dumped somewhere north of 11 million gallons of crude onto the Alaskan coast. ANWR was, for the time being, safe from giant drills.
When the next oilman named Bush arrived in Washington 12 years later, ANWR was back on the political table, touted as the greatest boon to support American energy independence. To allay environmental fears, the energy industry spun extraction as non-invasive to native species, and even Alaska's elected representatives dismissed the ecology of ANWR as little more than lifeless white space.
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