By Blu Putnam |
For many years now, politicians have used the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge as a rhetorical prop when talking about oil prices. "Oh, we would have cheaper gasoline, if only we could drill in the Arctic Refuge," more or less sums up the sentiment. Fortunately, there have been enough level-headed officials to more than counterbalance this thinking, and the refuge continues to be protected (which is what one would expect from a National Wildlife Refuge).
Even so, year after year there are attempts to open the Arctic Refuge to oil rigs, pipelines, airstrips, and all of the other development that comes with them. Meanwhile, often from the same people arguing to drill the Arctic Refuge, we don't see fuel conservation measures or the pursuit of renewable, clean energy like wind and solar that can be produced without willingly destroying a national treasure.
The oil and gas industry is already sitting on tens of millions of acres of American land that it isn't using--and it has more than 7,000 final drilling permits sitting by unused. Clearly, the oil industry's problem is not a lack of access.
The Arctic National Wildlife Refuge is truly one of a kind. It is one of the few remaining intact ecosystems in the world--one of the last places on the planet that has not felt the heavy hand of industrialization. It is home to more than 100,000 caribou that make up the Porcupine caribou herd. These animals are the cultural lifeblood of the Gwich'in people and their primary food source. For the Gwich'in, the Arctic Refuge--specifically the coastal plain, where the caribou go to birth their calves--is the "sacred place where life begins." The coastal plain is also designated critical habitat for the threatened polar bear, and provides the most important land denning and nursery habitat in the United States for polar bears.
Putting a drill rig or pipeline in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge would be the willing destruction of an American treasure and, for the Gwich'in, and end to their way of life, which has spanned millennia.
There will never be a time to surrender and drill the Arctic Refuge. Now is the time to reduce fuel consumption and reinvest in clean, renewable energy that can power America, create jobs, and keep our national treasures intact.
About William H. Meadows President of The Wilderness Society
Cindy Shogan Executive Director of the Alaska Wilderness League
Edward J. Markey U.S. Congressman
Doc Hastings U.S. Congressman
John Fleming U.S. Congressman
Marilyn Crockett Executive Director of the Alaska Oil and Gas Association
Robbie Diamond Founder, President and CEO of Securing America's Future Energy
Lisa Murkowski U.S. Senator