Question of the Day: ANWR Drilling Policy

Question of the Day developed by William Prothero, University of California, Santa Barbara.


This activity askes students to examine two policy positions regarding drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge as a part of the interplay between science and politics. The students also determine their viewpoint on the issue and share/defend it with their peers.

Learning Goals

  • Initiate critical thinking and discussion of proposals to open the ANWR to oil and gas drilling.
  • Quantitatively analyze the cases for oil drilling in the ANWR versus improving gas mileage in American automobiles.

Context for Use

This Question of the Day is appropriate for High School and Lower Division Undergraduate science classes of a wide range of sizes.

Description and Teaching Materials

ANWR Drilling Policy Debate (Acrobat (PDF) 118kB Jun16 04) Activity Sheet and Reading

Teaching Notes and Tips

The author's calculations yield the following:
  • An average US car mileage increase of five miles per gallon would reduce oil consuption by more than the expected peak annual oil production from drilling in ANWR.
  • An average US car mileage increase of ten miles per gallon (recommended as feasible by the National Academy of Sciences) would replace one quarter of the total amount of recoverable oil in ANWR each year, based on the most optimistic figure of 10 billion barrels of oil.


In the author's classes, the students turn in their answers to be graded by teaching assistants.
  • The recommended grading policy is generosity; 100% for a good-faith effort. Students cannot turn them in if they miss class or are late.
  • Collectively across the term, the question-of-the-day responses are worth about 10% of their grade.

References and Resources

Question of the Day is a method used by Dr. William Prothero in his Oceanography Course (more info) at the University of California, Santa Barbara.

For tips and information about using Questions of the Day as well as additional examples, see the Qustion of the Day page which is part of the Starting Point: Interactive Lectures Module.

Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (more info) - This is the US Fish and Wildlife Service website for ANWR. There is much information available here as well as many links to other sites.