The Trump administration wants to drill in an Arctic wildlife refuge. There might not even be much oil there.

Oil company in Alaska.
(Image credit: Handout/Getty Images)

The Trump administration's push to expand oil drilling in Alaska is underway, but it could be hampered by an ongoing mystery.

The New York Times reports that one of the areas the White House aims to designate for selling oil drilling leases — which happens to be part of Arctic National Wildlife Refuge in Alaska — might not be quite so oil-rich in the first place.

For over three decades the results from an exploratory well in the region have been closely guarded by Standard Oil and British Petroleum, the two oil giants that paid for the testing, even as Congress debated over the years about whether to open the area for drilling. But the Times uncovered court documents from litigation between Standard Oil and BP in 1987 that sowed doubt over how how plentiful the well was. Sydney Silverman, a lawyer who represented shareholders of Standard Oil at the time of the lawsuit told the Times that "the discovery well was worthless" and there was no evidence that "there was anything material within the refuge."

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If that is, indeed, the case, proponents of expanded exploration still argue that it represents just one data point in a vast area. But as the mystery continues and the data remains under wraps, the possibility that leasing the refuge area for drilling when there might be little, if any, valuable oil there at all has created an ongoing sense of "rumors, gossip, and political intrigue." Read more at The New York Times.

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