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November 17, 2010

Time to Commit in the Arctic

President Obama needs to finish something that started the year before he was born. That's when President Eisenhower set aside the pristine wilderness in the northeast corner of Alaska that we know today as the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. It's the last truly unspoiled wilderness in the United States, and the only way to be sure it stays that way is to make it a National Monument. 

Although the Refuge was created fifty years ago, that was only on paper. In reality, it has existed for millennia as a haven for caribou, moose, grizzly bears, arctic wolves, lynx, hundreds of migrating bird species, and other wildlife. It would have received National Monument status long ago were it not for three letters: O-I-L.  

Drilling for whatever oil lies under the tundra of the Refuge would have no significant effect on how much we pay for gas. It could, however, make the richest company in the world (ExxonMobil) even richer. 

As for the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, it would be destroyed before ExxonMobil and the other oil companies got a single drop. Bulldozers and large rigs would roam over the delicate tundra, drilling exploratory and production wells throughout the Refuge. Several dozen oil fields would need to be constructed, plus numerous airstrips, gravel mines, water-reservoir excavations, water withdrawal sites, seawater treatment plants, utility lines, loading docks, dormitories, and garbage dumps. 

So how about it, Mr. President? You once said that drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge "would irreversibly damage a protected national wildlife refuge without creating sufficient oil supplies to meaningfully affect the global market price or have a discernible impact on U.S. energy security."

Those were strong words and, after fifty years, I hope you weren't just leading us on. The Arctic National Wildlife Refuge has been saved from Big Oil many times during the past couple of decades. Now it's time to commit and finish the job. Here's your chance to leave a lasting wilderness legacy for the children who'll be born next year and all the years after.  

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