(by Meghan Clyne, Sept. 21, 2005, NYSun.com) WASHINGTON – Over the din of beating tom-toms, surrounded by activists wearing antlers and dressed as polar and grizzly bears, Senator Clinton yesterday dismissed high gas prices and the destruction wrought by Hurricane Katrina as a “diversion,” cautioning that proponents of arctic drilling were exploiting recent crises to make their case for a long-term anti-environment agenda.
Mrs. Clinton’s remarks were delivered to hundreds of demonstrators amassed on the West Lawn of the Capitol as part of Arctic Refuge Action Day, and her midday speech followed remarks by other congressional Democrats, including Senator Kerry of Massachusetts. The roster of participants included several environmentalists and left-leaning activists, among them the director of the Religious Action Center of the Union for Reform Judaism, Rabbi David Saperstein, and a senior attorney at the Natural Resources Defense Council, Robert F. Kennedy Jr.
Mrs. Clinton told those opposed to drilling to be “absolutely firm in our opposition” to drawing petroleum from Alaska’s Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.
“Some might say, ‘Well, senator, we have gas prices going up – don’t we need to drill in the Arctic Wildlife Refuge?'” Mrs. Clinton said. “And of course the answer is that we do not. The answer is that that is a diversion. The answer is that we need to break our addiction to foreign oil.”
As gasoline prices remained at more than $3 a gallon yesterday, and as Hurricane Rita further threatened domestic oil production along the Gulf Coast, Mrs. Clinton cautioned against conflating recent decreases in domestic supply with the need to tap ANWR’s resources. “You know very well that those who have supported drilling for years are using the increase in oil and gas prices to make their case today,” she said.
“Here’s what I think,” Mrs. Clinton said. “It makes no sense to respond to a disaster in the gulf by making a disaster in Alaska.”
The senator, whose remarks were greeted with cheering and applause, also excoriated the chairman of the Senate’s environment committee, Senator Inhofe, a Republican of Oklahoma, for introducing legislation last week that would allow the Environmental Protection Agency to ease environmental laws to facilitate the post-Katrina rebuilding effort.
“We want to help people in the Gulf Coast recover quickly,” Mrs. Clinton said, “but not at the expense of their health and the long-term health of their environment.”
Mrs. Clinton’s remarks yesterday echoed sentiments expressed by many environmental advocacy groups, which in recent weeks have expressed concern that Hurricane Katrina and skyrocketing oil prices would serve as justification for tapping into the arctic preserve to boost domestic oil supply. A proposal to use ANWR’s resources had been slated for consideration next month by both houses of Congress as part of a budget reconciliation bill, which would have bridged $2.6 billion of a $35 billion budget gap by leasing land in the arctic refuge to oil companies. Owing to the massive federal expenditures anticipated as part of the post-Katrina rebuilding effort, however, the budget-reconciliation legislation, including the proposals for opening ANWR to petroleum excavation, was postponed until the end of October, Ms. Harper said.
Despite the temporary reprieve for ANWR, Mrs. Clinton urged maintained vigilance. “I believe that our continuing opposition sends a clear message that we will not be diverted from the primary goal of weaning us from this addiction to foreign oil,” she said yesterday, noting that drilling in the arctic “would not have any material impact on either oil prices or U.S. oil imports.”
Bemoaning the fate of the porcupine caribou resident in ANWR, New York’s junior senator said the solution to “$65-a-barrel oil” was not increasing domestic petroleum output but instead devising alternative fuels. “The answer to our energy challenge does not lie under the plains of the arctic refuge,” she said, “but in the minds that are ingenious in America.”
“We could work our way out of this,” Mrs. Clinton added, “if the people in power today would get out of the way and quit looking to the past and start looking to the future.”
Yesterday, Angela Harper, a spokeswoman for the chairman of the Senate’s Committee on Energy and Natural Resources, Senator Domenici, a Republican of New Mexico, disputed that drilling in ANWR would harm any indigenous wildlife. “Drilling technology and environmental procedures are now so safe,” she said, adding that increasing oil prices showed now more than ever the need to diversify America’s domestic oil supply, 30% of which, she said, comes from the Gulf Coast.
Mrs. Clinton concluded her remarks yesterday by saying, “We are better than this,” and lamenting the “disgraceful treatment of the people left behind in the Gulf Coast.” While departing the event, she was asked to “endorse” a sign held by a demonstrator blaming President Bush for the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, the Iraq war, and the devastation wrought by Katrina. Mrs. Clinton autographed the poster.
Reprinted here with permission from the New York Sun. Visit the website at www.nysun.com.
1. How many demonstrators were in Washington yesterday for the Arctic Refuge Action Day? What were the activists protesting? Which Senators spoke at the rally?
2. Why did Mrs. Clinton say that high gas prices and the destruction from Hurricane Katrina were a diversion by supporters of drilling at ANWR? What does Mrs. Clinton want the U.S. government to do with the oil in the ANWR section of Alaska?
3. How does Mrs. Clinton respond to the U.S.’s need for oil/gas? (para. 4) The U.S. currently imports over 50% of our oil from foreign countries. Is Mrs. Clinton saying that by breaking our dependence on foreign oil we should reduce our oil consumption by 50%? Or did she mean that we should replace 50% of oil usage with alternative fuel sources and more fuel efficient cars? What type of alternative fuel sources will probably be the most effective? Do you think that will solve the problem? Explain your answer.
4. Mrs. Clinton said that drilling for oil at ANWR would “[make] a disaster in Alaska”. Why do supporters of drilling refute that statement? How do opponents of drilling agree with Mrs. Clinton? NOTE that there are discrepencies in the facts presented: supporters say caribou and other wildlife will not be harmed, in fact they co-exist successfully with oil development. Opponents say that wildlife is harmed, and the landscape will also be harmed by oil development. Is it true that supporters are trying to work with environmentalist concerns but opponents do not want any development in wilderness areas? With which side do you agree? Why?
5. According to ANWR’s website, how large is ANWR? How large is the proposed development area? (click on map, top left corner of the homepage).
Check out the website. View the video presentation.
-What percentage of Alaskans support drilling at ANWR? List the reasons for their support.
-Why do you suppose that the percentage of Alaskans who support drilling is higher than Americans overall?
-What answer do many Alaskans give to the protestors concern that oil drilling destroys the environment?
-With which side of this debate do you think the mainstream media sides?
6. Mrs. Clinton states that drilling in ANWR “would not have any material impact on either oil prices or U.S. oil imports”. Do you agree with her statement? Explain your answer.
7. What did Mrs. Clinton do when an opponent to ANWR asked her to endorse a sign blaming President Bush for the terrorist attacks of September 11, the Iraq war, and the devastation wrought by Katrina? What does her action signify?