Invest in Alternative Energy, Not Oil Drilling

Invest in Alternative Energy, Not Oil Drilling

BRISTOL Bay in Alaska is known for its endangered whales and the world’s largest run of sockeye salmon. Thanks to President Bush, it also has been leased for oil and gas drilling.

The action clears the way for the Interior Department to open 5.6 million acres of fish-rich waters northwest of the Alaska Peninsula. Interior Secretary Dirk Kempthorne says this, along with drilling in the Gulf of Mexico, “will enhance America’s energy security.”

Politicians in Alaska are loving this — and the revenue it may bring. Sen. Ted Stevens, R-Alaska, managed to do a song-and-dance for Congress in 2003 to lift a moratorium on drilling in the bay.

Then you have Alaska’s newly elected Republican governor, Sarah Palin, singing the praises of possible additional oil and gas production in her beautiful state, claiming the additional jobs are worth the price. She did promise “a very aggressive role in making sure our fisheries are protected.”

We’ve heard this one before. Remember the massive oil spill from the Exxon Valdez in 1990 on the other side of the peninsula from this very bay? That’s why Congress originally said off limits to oil drilling in this area. The Interior Department believes there’s 200 million barrels of oil and 5 trillion cubic feet of natural gas beneath the bay’s federal waters. Imagine the tax revenue to be had by Alaska — no wonder Palin is smiling today.

The plan would make Bristol Bay leases available in 2010 and 2012, pending environmental reviews, which are nothing more than formalities. The clock is running.

Those not smiling are many residents, environmentalists and fishermen, as they fear the impact our thirst for oil may have on one of the largest commercial fisheries in the world — and feeding grounds for whales. The area is known for its huge annual catches of salmon, cod, red king crab, halibut and schools of herring.

“It’s a sad day for Bristol Bay,” said Eric Sly, executive director of the Alaska Marine Conservation Council.

Kempthorne did mention that the subject is up for study and public comment. Well, here’s a comment: This is another example of why we desperately need to find, invest in and develop alternate energy sources.

Is the return from drilling worth the potential environmental hazard this could produce, or are politicians, including President Bush, capitalizing on an open-door for oil profits? Let’s face it — drilling in this region of Alaska is a mere Band-Aid for the energy appetite of our nation.

Nevertheless, we are agreeable to tearing up our environment and rich natural resources to fuel cars, heat homes and run businesses. The sad thing is, at this point, we have little choice until alternatives are developed and brought to the market. That’s what we should be investing in.

By the way, the same day the Bristol Bay deal was announced, it was discovered that as many as 500 gallons of crude oil spilled from a trans-Alaska pipeline because of a loose fitting. Consider it symbolic of our environmental sacrifices for oil.

(c) 2007 Oakland Tribune. Provided by ProQuest Information and Learning. All rights Reserved.

Source: Oakland Tribune

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