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Sierra Club Sierra Club Want to Explore, Enjoy and Protect the Planet? Join the Club!
Sierra Club InsiderOctober 31, 2005

A vote on whether to drill for oil in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge is imminent -- the Senate vote is expected this week and the House next week. The Sierra Club and millions of Americans have fought for decades to protect the Refuge. Oil industry lobbyists paint the Refuge as an instant cure-all for high gas prices. But the expert consensus is that sacrificing the Refuge would lower gas prices by only a penny per gallon -- in 20 years.

Here's why it's so important that we win this fight to save the Arctic. Be sure to forward this list to your friends.

arctic refuge rainbow1. The Arctic Refuge is America's last great wilderness.

The coastal plain of the Arctic Refuge, untouched by development. It is where the Porcupine caribou herd comes to birth its calves, where polar bears make their dens, and where migratory birds from every state in the union flock to in the summer. You can see for yourself the incredible wildlife of the Refuge in this short video shot last summer.

walrus2. Oil development equals pollution.

At nearby Prudhoe Bay, there's an average of one spill a day.

Over a six-year period, the Prudhoe Bay oil fields and Trans-Alaska Pipeline caused an average of 400 spills annually on the North Slope, posing risks to wildlife and fish.

Proponents say the drilling would be confined to less than 2,000 acres. But what they don't admit is that those 2,000 acres will riddle the entire coastal plain with 1,500 football fields worth of industrial development. No matter how well done, oil exploration will strike at the heart of the Arctic Refuge.

musk ox3. Arctic drilling was snuck in through the backdoor of the budget bill.

A bipartisan national survey in January 2005 found that 53 percent of Americans oppose proposals to drill for oil in the Arctic Refuge with only 35 percent in favor of allowing it.

And a far bigger majority (73 percent) agree that drilling in the Arctic Refuge is "too important to the American public and future generations to be snuck through" in the budget process. Which is exactly what is happening now in Washington. Don't let them get away with it.

Gwich'in4. Oil development threatens native Alaskans.

The Gwich'in people have lived along the Yukon and Porcupine Rivers of the Arctic, scattered throughout 15 villages in northeast Alaska, and in the Yukon and Northwest Territories of Canada, for thousands of years -- subsisting off of the Porcupine caribou herd. They call the calving grounds of the Arctic Refuge "Iizhik Gwats'an Gwandaii Goodlit" (The Sacred Place Where Life Begins).

You can hear author Rick Bass describe his conversations with Gwich'in people whose way of life would be endangered oil and gas exploration and development in this short audio excerpt from Caribou Rising, published by Sierra Club Books.

caribou5. We can't drill our way to energy independence.

Using rising oil prices and the war with Iraq as justification, President Bush has touted Arctic drilling as the answer to our nation's energy security and national security needs. But oil industry profits continue to rise -- ExxonMobil's recently announced quarterly profits of $9.9 billion, up 75 percent from last year -- and improvements in fuel efficiency requirements continue to be miniscule.

There's a better way: The answer isn't on the supply side of the equation, it's on the demand side. If we make our cars and trucks more efficient, for example, requiring them to average 40 miles per gallon, we'd save more oil than we could ever get from the Arctic and what we currently import from the Persian Gulf -- combined.

Convinced? Sign our petition and contact your representatives.

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See What's at Stake

The Arctic National Wildlife Refuge is not a wasteland! It teems with life, particularly during the summer months when the Porcupine herd arrives to calve.

Watch our video showing some of the animals of the Refuge -- and share it with friends who might not realize what the Congress is about to destroy forever.

Enemies of the Refuge don't want Americans to know how rich in wildlife the Refuge is -- that's why they suppressed the arctic photos of Subhankar Banerjee when they were displayed at the Smithsonian Institute. But you can see them here.

tundra swan
Be the Scariest Man in Congress

Still looking for a Halloween costume? Consider Congressman Richard Pombo. Why is he so scary?

For starters, he's leading the charge to open up the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to oil drilling. He also wants to end a 25-year moratorium on oil and gas drilling off our coasts.

He's introduced a bill to rewrite the 30-year-old Endangered Species Act to eliminate critical habitat designations. He's even proposed selling 15 national parks to generate revenue.

Scared? You can download a Pombo Halloween mask here. But be sure to put the kids to bed before putting it on.

Pombo Mask


Time Is Running Out

We cannot afford to lose this fight to save the untouched wilderness of the Arctic Refuge -- home to a wealth of wildlife, including polar bears, wolves, birds, and other animals.

We urgently need your help to implement an emergency strategy to prevent oil and gas drilling in the Arctic or along our coasts.

Please, make a donation and help us continue to protect these unspoiled wild places and animals.

polar bears
Photos: Arctic Refuge (USFWS) | Walrus (USFWS) | Musk Ox (USFWS) | Gwich'in Woman (Oil on Ice) | Caribou (USFWS) | Tundra Swan (USFWS) | Pombo Mask (Tim Lesle) | Polar Bears (USFWS)