A polar bear roams sea ice near Kaktovik, Alaska, where offshore oil development could lead to the release of billions of tons of additional greenhouse gases.
Three days after President Obama outlined a plan to reduce carbon emissions and to prepare the nation for some of the damaging effects of climate change, the U.S. House of Representatives passed a bill that would lead to an unnecessary and troubling release of approximately 15.8 billion tons of CO2 from America’s Arctic.
H.R. 2231, sponsored by Rep. Doc Hastings (R-Wash.), would amend the Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act to increase offshore energy exploration and production in regions including the highly-sensitive Arctic Ocean, which contains invaluable marine wildlife resources. In addition to their ecological importance, these resources are critical to Alaska Natives, who depend on them for food.
“In terms of climate change, Doc Hastings’ drilling plan is like extinguishing a fire with gasoline. Passage of H.R. 2231 shows the House is tone deaf regarding climate change,” said Lois Epstein, an Alaska-licensed engineer and Arctic program director for The Wilderness Society. “Arctic Ocean oil and gas would release as much carbon dioxide as all passenger cars and light trucks in the United States release over a 13-year period.”
A recent analysis conducted by The Wilderness Society, the Center for American Progress and the Alaska Wilderness League found that exploiting Arctic Ocean reserves would have the potential to release approximately 15.8 billion tons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere.
Arctic Ocean drilling would pose an immediate environmental threat because of the risk of oil spills and the extreme difficulty of responding to a spill in one of the harshest and most remote environments in the world. The oil industry lacks the technology to recover significant amounts of spilled oil in cold, stormy seas, and a late-season well blowout would be catastrophic if not brought under control before winter ice formed.
“Doc Hasting’s bill is designed to keep America dependent on fossil fuels for as long as possible by indirectly discouraging development of renewable energy and increased energy efficiency,” said Epstein. “It is in direct conflict with America’s long-term needs, and President Obama’s plan to address climate change.”
The Wilderness Society is the leading public-lands conservation organization working to protect wilderness and inspire Americans to care for our wild places. Founded in 1935, and now with more than 500,000 members and supporters, TWS has led the effort to permanently protect 110 million acres of wilderness and to ensure sound management of our shared national lands. www.wilderness.org