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A MIND-FULL SPOKEN©

Opinion editorials by Katey LaFrance
as seen in the Liberal Opinion Week and other publications.
Member of the National Writer's Union.

"Keep Alaska's Arctic Coastal Plain
safe from Bush-sanctioned oil exploration"

   The Arctic Coastal Plain is so critical for wildlife and so rich with diversity it has been dubbed "America's Serengeti." It is the calving area for the Porcupine Caribou Herd of almost two hundred thousand. There is no nutritional alternative to the important forage the caribou find on the ACP.

   Literally millions of birds migrate from places as far flung as Asia, South America, and Chesapeake Bay to nest there; raising their young, molting, and feeding in preparation for their return migrations. It also abounds with grizzly bears, wolves, arctic foxes, and golden eagles. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has called it "the center for wildlife activity for the entire refuge."

   George W. Bush would change all of that. In the first presidential debate, he accused Al Gore of using scare tactics to win votes. In virtually the next breath he brandished his own bogey-man in the way of dependence on foreign oil. He would open up Alaska's Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, in particular the Arctic Coastal Plain, to the oil field industry. The ANWR covers 19.6 million acres, almost half of it designated wilderness. The crucial part of it which Bush wants to open for exploration is a 1.5 million acre portion of Alaska's Arctic Coastal Plain. Those 1.5 million acres are the only part of the ACP which is included in the Refuge, and as such, protected. Those 1.5 million acres are also the only place which contains all of the Arctic sub-ecosystems in one protected area. The rest of the Arctic Coastal Plain, the ninety-five percent not covered by the Refuge, is already available for oil and gas exploration.

   During the Reagan administration, the Department of Interior found there was a chance of less than one in five of ever finding recoverable oil in the ANWR. If oil companies beat those odds and strike pay dirt, both the Department of Energy and the U.S. Geological Survey have said it would most likely amount to a mere 3.2 million barrels, which would only last a few months in meeting the needs of American consumers. It would also take about ten years to even hit the market. Ninety-five percent of Alaska's North Slope is available for oil exploration. Oil companies expect to step up their production on the North Slope with forecasted increases of 15-17%, all without opening any of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.

   Americans consume 25% of the world's oil. America has, at the most, reserves of 2-3% of the world's oil. Even if we sacrificed all of our wilderness areas, parks, coastlines, etc., we would never be able to become independent of foreign oil; at our present rate of consumption, there literally is not enough oil in the ground for development. Leaders, who have real vision and care about the earth as a whole and her peoples, must encourage conservation and development of alternatives such as wind and solar energies, but especially fuel cell technology. Utilising hydrocarbon fuel from natural gas, methanol, or even gasoline, fuel cells rely on chemistry, rather than combustion resulting in very few emissions compared to even the cleanest fuel combustion process.

   America pays more than $5 billion per month for imported oil. A small percentage of those monies could bring fuel cell technology to a viable commercial basis within five years; create tens of thousands of jobs; reduce life and planet-threatening pollution; and preserve such important and pristine areas as the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge and Coastal Plain.

   Since Bush has been governor of Texas, it has ranked number one in the country for pollution released by manufacturing plants; number one for pollution caused by industrial plants in violation of the Clean Air Act; and, number one in greenhouse emissions. Yet, Bush would have us believe he would protect the Arctic Coastal Plain from any damage caused by oil exploration.

   Maintaining and expanding the status quo is exactly what the majority of automobile manufacturers, oil companies and related industries want to do, no matter the enviromental costs. They have found a willing partner in Bush.

   If we really want our planet to remain viable, thus affording generations to come, literally, a chance at life, we have to say no to Bush's bogey-man of foreign oil dependence. We have to say no to prolonged and continued dependence on any oil. We have to say no to raping pristine wilderness and exploitation of our planet's resources. We must demand more monies for development of affordable technologies, now which can give hope of a better lifetime for those generations to come.

© October 10, 2000 OoBraughLoo Press
All rights reserved

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