Fridays in Washington D.C. are often days in which bad news is dumped. The idea is that the news will get lost over the weekend while Americans are recharging for the week ahead. So maybe that's why the Interior Department announced Friday that they will offer oil and gas leases on 1.8 million acres of Alaska's National Petroleum Reserve, a ecologically sensitive area important for bird migration. The auction will open up on Aug. 11 in Anchorage. The massive reserve on Alaska's North Slope covers 23 million acres and will be spliced and diced into 190 tracts for oil exploration. BP spilled 267,000 gallons of crude there in 2006.
The Associated Press reports that the Center for Biological Diversity isn't happy with the decision:
But Brendan Cummings, an attorney for the Center for Biological Diversity, said the reserve is the country's largest and most intact unprotected wilderness area, and protecting Teshekpuk Lake isn't enough.
"They're not going to cut out its heart, but they're still cutting off an arm and a leg," he said.
Cummings said politicians unwilling to allow leasing in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to the east are willing to sacrifice the petroleum reserve, where, he said, caribou, wolves and waterfowl also need protection. Just having a sale, he said, defeats the original purpose of setting aside the land, which was to provide a reserve of petroleum resources as an emergency supply in time or war or other crisis.
Cummings is right, and criticism is sure to not stop with him. Our energy policy now is to import oil from foreign countries and to open up sensitive areas for drilling, all while ignoring the systemic changes we need to get off of oil, like a price on carbon. It's short-term thinking at the expense of sensitive areas and future generations. We need a real energy and climate bill now that puts us on the path to a low carbon future and that lowers our dependance on oil. Increasing the amounts of land available for leasing is counterproductive and only delays the inevitable.