The Gwich'in,the region's indigenous inhabitants, unanimously oppose drilling.

This group included prominent U.S. and Canadian ecologists and wildlife biologists. The letter stated, "Based on our collective experience and understanding of the cumulative effects of oil and gas development on Alaska's North Slope, we do not believe these impacts have been adequately considered for the Arctic Refuge..."

The Vintut Gwich'in First Nations— Cultural Genocide

For thousands of years, the Gwich'in Indians have inhabited the region just outside of what is now the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, in Canada's Yukon and Northwest Territories. The Gwich'in are Athabascan Indians, and one of the most traditional indigenous cultures still in existence.

Their villages were originally established along the migratory routes of the Porcupine Caribou herd, which they still rely on for a major portion of their food supply. The Gwich'in currently number 7,000. They live in fifteen villages that even today are located along the caribou's migratory route.

In a recent U.S. public speaking tour, Sandra Newman, a spokesperson for the Gwich'in Indians, stated that the Gwich'in people unanimously oppose plans to drill on the coastal plain. They fear the inevitable impact that such large-scale development will have on the caribou population, and in turn, their culture. Across the border, the Canadian government has moved to protect the Porcupine caribou herd's calving and post-calving grounds within Ivvavik and Vuntut National Parks, which are adjacent to the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.

Unfortunately, the current U.S. administration has no such good intentions. The predicament that the Gwich'in are facing is frightfully similar to the plight of the American Plains Indians as the bison herds were destroyed by European settlers. It's unfathomable to think that it may happen again, two hundred years later, for the same ignorant, short-sighted, resource-based reasons.

British Petroleum (BP) is the dominant international oil interest pushing to drill within the boundaries of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. BP claims to be sensitive to traditional cultures affected by their development of oil reserves. But for the last month, the page on their Web site titled "Some Human Rights Issues Facing BP" has been curiously blank.

The Facts That Matter

Should the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge be exploited for international oil company corporate profits, or left to its own peaceful evolutionary devices? Take a look at the facts.

• Assuming there is no increase in consumption, the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) estimates that there is a 50 percent chance of finding a nine month (domestic) supply of oil on the coastal plain of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.

• If the U.S. government votes in favor of oil production in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, it will take seven to ten years to develop the infrastructure that will make this oil available to consumers in the U.S.

Prudoe Bay, just west of ANWR, displays the classic signs of humans with oil as their priority.

Prudoe Bay, just west of ANWR, displays the classic signs of humans with oil as their priority.


You're reading Home Power. So chances are that you value the environment, the sensible use of the planet's dwindling resources, and an end to our fossil fuel based energy economy. But how often do we take an active role in the determination of how these resources are used, and when they shouldn't be used at all?

Well, here's our chance. And without our efforts, we are taking a big chance. The survival of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge ecosystem will be determined by our combined efforts. So here's what we can do.

First, work within the political system. Write and mail letters voicing your opposition to oil development in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. Ask your senators and representatives to support The Arctic National Wildlife Refuge Wilderness Act (S411/HR770). Ask them to oppose The National Energy Security Act of 2001 (S388). Hand signed letters carry the most weight. Email is generally discarded without review.

Motivate your friends and neighbors to write letters as well. My partner and I recently invited some friends over for a letter-writing party that produced thirty letters condemning drilling for oil in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. We all took turns at the computer, and had a great dinner to boot.

Unfortunately, the current oil-soaked U.S. administration will ultimately decide if the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge ecosystem is destroyed for corporate profits. How many letters will it take to counteract the oil industry's monetary contributions to our elected officials' political campaigns? That's anybody's guess. So let's play it safe, and bury them in letters. Address your letters to:

President George W. Bush

The White House, 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. NW

Washington, DC 20500

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency

Ariel Rios Building, 1200 Pennsylvania Ave. NW

Washington, DC 20460

U.S. Department of the Interior 1849 C St. NW, Washington, DC 20240

U.S. Department of Energy

1000 Independence Ave. SW, Washington, DC 20585

Your Senators and Representatives: If you don't know their postal addresses, you can find them by using at: http://office.capwiz.com/congressorg2/dbq/officials

British Petroleum, Britannic House, 1 Finsbury Circus, London EC2M7BA England • www.bp.com

Disgusted with the politicians and their politricks? "They're all bought out by the corporations anyway. Write a letter? What's the point." Many people share your views.

But don't feel powerless about the future of the ANWR. Get active and work outside the political system. Organize local educational gatherings. Perform guerrilla street theatre that entertains and educates. Plaster your local utility poles and message boards with fact sheets. Express your desire to keep the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge wild.

• Americans currently consume 7 billion barrels of oil a year. Two-thirds of this is used in transportation. A 6 percent increase in auto and light truck fuel efficiency standards would, in just three years, equal the amount of estimated oil available in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.

• 96 percent of Alaska's North Slope is already open to oil and gas exploration and development. The coastal plain within the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge represents the last 4 percent of Alaska's undeveloped northern coastline.

• Various public opinion polls show that 60 to 70 percent of Americans want the coastal plain of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to be designated as wilderness, making it off-limits to oil development.

• Oil-fired turbines produce 1 percent of California's electricity. Drilling for oil in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge will not ease the state's self-inflicted energy crisis.

• Alaskans are closely divided on whether to develop oil production in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. A statewide public opinion poll conducted in July, 2000 showed 49 percent of Alaskans for oil development within the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge's boundaries, 45 percent against development within the refuge, and 6 percent undecided.

• The state of Alaska has a "permanent fund" created by oil company royalties and oil development taxes. Every Alaskan man, woman, and child receives annual dividends from this fund. The year 2000

The Porcupine caribou herd numbers 130,000 and relies on this narrow strip of tundra between the mountain range and sea to feed while calves are nursing.

dividend checks amounted to US$1,963.86 for each state citizen.

• Oil and gas development in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge will not necessarily lower U.S. gas and home heating oil prices. In 1978, when oil from Prudhoe Bay was added to the domestic supply, U.S. oil prices rose by 15 percent. The presence or absence of an individual oil field does not determine domestic oil prices. Oil and gas prices are determined by global supply and demand factors.

• There is no guarantee that oil produced within the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge will be used domestically, and not be exported for corporate profit.

Guilty Parties

The oil slick of an administration that has settled over Washington, DC made their intentions to drill in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge clear early on. Then presidential candidate George W. Bush strongly supported opening the refuge to international oil developers. And while Bush was making jokes about (and mispronouncing) "photovoltaics" during his campaign stump speeches, individuals and political action committees (PACs) from the oil and gas industries were pouring just shy of US$2 million into his presidential campaign fund.

Republican Senator Frank Murkowski and nine co-sponsors recently authored The National Energy Security Act of 2001 (S388). The passage of this legislation would open the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge and other public lands to oil development. Want to take a guess at how much the oil and gas industries contributed to Murkowski's and the bill's co-sponsors' campaigns during the 1995-2000 election cycle? US$1.3 million. But the big question is, how much "security" will less than a year's worth of petroleum provide?

BP—Beyond Petroleum or Big Profits?

British Petroleum, ExxonMobil, Chevron, and Phillips Petroleum are all engaged in Arctic oil development. BP is by far the most influential player, and is responsible for 51 percent of the petroleum coming out of Arctic oil fields. Via campaign funding, they are working hard to influence the U.S. government to open the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to oil production. On their Web site, British Petroleum states, "The track record of our North Slope operations demonstrates our ability to operate in sensitive environments in a responsible and sustainable manner, protecting this [the refuge's coastal plain] important habitat and the wildlife that it supports."

This is the same British Petroleum that in February of 2000 was fined US$22 million for illegally dumping hazardous wastes, including benzene and other toxic chemicals, down well shafts at their Alaskan Endicott oil fields. This, incidentally, is one of the "technologically improved" petroleum facilities we've all been hearing about. BP Exploration (Alaska) is currently serving a five-year probation for this violation of the Oil Pollution Act of 1990.

More and more American consumers are opting to spend their hard-earned dollars with "green" companies—companies with strong environmental records. Regardless of their environmental history, many companies are attempting to alter their corporate image to profit from this growing group of consumers. This tactic is often referred to as "greenwashing."

British Petroleum is currently executing a massive public relations campaign in an attempt to create a more environmentally friendly image. They've even gone so far as to state that BP is now an acronym for "beyond petroleum."

BP Solar, a division of British Petroleum, has been making great strides, and is well respected within the renewable energy community. And there's no doubt that British Petroleum has determined that photovoltaics will be an important energy source in the decades ahead. But for British Petroleum to attempt to change their entire corporate image based on their solar division, which generates less than 1 percent of their total annual profits, is ludicrous. It is a textbook case of greenwashing.

In a 1998 presentation to the Royal Institute of International Affairs in London, BP's group chief executive John Brown stated, "Our environmental commitment is not, in short, a gleam in my eye. It is not a matter of public relations. It is our day-to-day business reality." If this is the case, why is BP even contemplating oil development within the boundaries of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge?

If BP is truly looking "beyond petroleum," voluntarily terminating their plans to drill in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge would be the obvious place to start. In the words of Edward Abbey, "Sentiment without action is the ruin of the soul."


Joe Schwartz, Home Power, PO Box 520, Ashland, OR 97520 • 530-475-3179

Fax: 530-474-0836 • [email protected] www.homepower.com

British Petroleum, Britannic House, 1 Finsbury Circus, London EC2M7BA England • www.bp.com

Center for Responsive Politics, 1101 14th St. NW, Suite 1030, Washington, DC 20005 • 202-857-0044 Fax: 202-857-7809 • [email protected] www.opensecrets.org

Caribou Commons Project, Coordinator: Ken Madsen, 21 Klondike Rd., Whitehorse, Yukon, Y1A 3l8 Canada 867-668-7370 • [email protected] www.cariboucommons.com

The Wilderness Society, 1615 M St. NW, Washington, DC 30036 • 800-843-9453 • www.wilderness.org

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service • [email protected] http://arctic.fws.gov/issues1.html

U.S. Geological Survey, 12201 Sunrise Valley Dr., Reston, VA 20192 • 888-ASK-USGS Fax: 703-648-5548 • [email protected] http://energy.usgs.gov/factsheets/ANWR/ANWR.html

Vuntut Gwich'in First Nations—Old Crow, PO Box 94, Old Crow, Yukon, Y0B 1N0 Canada • 867-966-3261 Fax: 867-966-3116 • [email protected] www.oldcrow.yk.net

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