Congress waited until the week before its August recess to do its worst damage: passing an energy bill that lavishes billions of dollars in subsidies upon the oil, gas, nuclear, and coal industries -- more than even President Bush asked for. It also instructs the Department of the Interior to prepare to lease the entire coastline of the United States for oil and gas drilling. As Sierra Club Executive Director Carl Pope wrote in his blog: "This isn't democracy -- it's a mugging."
Fortunately, drilling the Arctic Refuge was not included, but a critical vote on that issue is coming in September. Because Bush administration allies in Congress snuck projected revenues from Arctic drilling into the $2.5-trillion budget reconciliation bill, the Arctic Refuge may not get a vote on its own merits. This puts some members of Congress in a terrible bind.
For example, Maine's two senators, Susan Collins and Olympia Snowe, consider themselves champions of the Arctic and have voted several times against drilling for oil there. But because the budget bill also includes provisions supporting Maine's struggling shipbuilding industry, Collins and Snowe could end up tipping the balance in favor of drilling.
But Sierra Club grassroots activists in Maine and all over the country are fighting to make sure that doesn't happen.
You might think that founding Chez Panisse (named the "Best Restaurant in America" by Gourmet magazine), and writing eight cookbooks might be enough for renowned chef Alice Waters. But she has even bigger fish to fry (if indeed she ever fries fish). She wants to change the role food plays in our culture.
Waters, who talks about her Edible Schoolyard project, the importance of eating locally grown food, and the "delicious revolution" in an interview in Sierra magazine, will be one of the featured speakers at Sierra Summit 2005. (She's just one of dozens of stimulating speakers and workshop leaders who'll be at the Summit.) You can get a taste of Waters and other Summit speakers -- as well as register for the Summit -- at www.sierrasummit2005.org/interviews.
Hybrids are hot. Charlotte, North Carolina, and surrounding Mecklenburg County have agreed to purchase at least two dozen new hybrid cars over the next year, more than tripling the city-county stable of hybrids. Fleet managers say this not only will mean less pollution but also will save money in the long run. Many of the new hybrids will go to the air-quality staff. "They're not going to show up at some organization to do a clean-air presentation driving a 1992 Chevy Cavalier anymore," says Mecklenburg County fleet manager Jim Cathey.
Former President Jimmy Carter, Sierra Club Honorary President Edgar Wayburn, and about a thousand other conservationists gathered in Anchorage earlier this month to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the passage of the Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act, which protected 100 million acres of wildlands in the nationís 49th and largest state.
Wayburn, now 98, was arguably the most influential Club leader in securing protection for these Alaskan wildlands. "The campaign for Alaska's lands reached an important plateau in 1980, but a campaign like this never really ends," he said. "Wildlands must always be defended against those who would encroach against their ecological integrity."
Read his full speech here.
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