No Stevens, no drilling?

Letter to the Editor
11/28/08

With someone so beholden to the oil industry, it should not be a surprise that a jury found Sen. Ted Stevens (R-Alaska) guilty of failing to report gifts by the oil company Veco, for which Stevens has worked to give massive contracts.

With Stevens being the main proponent of drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, those favoring such a horrific move should reconsider their position. The facts are clear that we need to protect the last five percent of the North Slope of Alaska that is the biological heart of the last intact Arctic ecosystem with a free ranging caribou herd left in the world. The 123,000 caribou feed the Gwich’in Nation as well as the Inupiat peoples. The Gwich’in are caribou people, and have lived off the Porcupine Caribou herd for tens of thousands of years.

That is the herd that breeds on the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge coastal plain, right where people like convicted felon Ted Stevens want to drill for oil. Currently, oil companies have not developed more than 85 percent of the land that they have already leased. There is plenty of oil there until we make the fast needed transition to renewable energy. They are trying to get the last five percent while President George Bush is in office, because they realize that no one else will likely be corrupt enough to go along with such a disastrous move.

In my first personal encounter with Ted Stevens at a public meeting in Kaktovik, on Barter Island in the Arctic Ocean, the Senator ordered me to not videotape or take photos, even though others in the meeting were allowed. Stevens held the meeting, which attracted nearly 200 native Inupiat peoples, looking for support for drilling in the refuge.

Instead, Inupiat leader Robert Thompson presented him with a petition of the majority of residents opposing drilling. Stevens told the group that Congress had promised him drilling. I began to shake my head in disagreement. Having written two books on the subject, I knew this was not true.

Stevens stopped the meeting and said in a raised, stern voice: “if you don’t stop shaking your head, I will have you removed from this meeting. I will have you removed from this meeting if you don’t stop shaking your head.”

Luckily, this fossil fuel dinosaur is nearly extinct. Rather than more drilling, we must demand massive investment in energy efficiency, solar and wind power to create good, clean sustainable jobs and do something about the climate crisis: by far the most important issue of our time.

– Chad Kister
Nelsonville, Ohio


Mr. Kister is the Author of “Arctic Quest: Odyssey Through a Threatened Wilderness Area”; “Arctic Melting: How Climate Change is Destroying One of the World’s Largest Wilderness Area” and “Against All Odds: The Struggle to Save The Ridges.”

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