A picture is worth a thousand words – or in this case ten billion barrels.

A group of ten House Republicans just did something few ecotourists have ever done – they visited Alaska’s Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR) and saw first-hand the 2,000 or so acres of the 19.6 million acre refuge believed to lie on top of America’s single largest untapped source of oil.

Anti-drilling activists have characterized this area as an environmental jewel, but the pictures of this expedition show a bleak, flat, nearly treeless expanse of no aesthetic and minimal ecological value. Little wonder the place gets almost no tourists. Granted, Alaska has some of the nation’s most stunning scenery – but not anywhere near the areas that would be disturbed by drilling for ANWR’s estimated 10 billion barrels. In fact, even if this portion of ANWR were opened to drilling, the state would still have 140 million acres that are fully protected – an area equal to the entire states of California and New York combined.

ANWR drilling has other things going for it as well. The oil rich part is only 70 miles away from the existing trans-Alaska pipeline. There is strong state and local support for drilling – unlike in Washington, both Republicans and Democrats in Alaska are strongly pro-production. And decades of drilling in nearby Prudhoe Bay has proven that oil drilling can be done in an environmentally responsible manner.

Rep. Michelle Bachmann (R-MN) was on the trip and argues that ANWR “is a treasure trove of energy that will yield a lot with only minimal intrusion.” Others disagree, but how many of them have ever been there?