“Drilling for Highways” is a Wrong Turn for Highways and Public Lands


America needs its roads and bridges – without them, we couldn’t get to work, ship goods, and get to the wild places where we love to go hiking, biking, and camping.  But we also need to get away from climate-change causing fossil fuels – not make ourselves more dependent on them.

This is the lesson that the House Republicans don’t seem to learn.  They’re now trying to make a mess of a bill meant to rebuild our bridges and roads by forcing the addition of several drilling bills into the final legislation.

Opening up the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to oil drilling.  Opening up America’s oceans to offshore drilling.  Opening up millions of acres in the west to mine for oil shale – an unconventional fossil fuel that has never, ever been commercially viable.  The handouts to the already gift-laden oil and gas industry just keep coming.

What’s even more disturbing is that the money raised from these drilling proposals are a drop in the bucket – less than one percent – of the funds needed to pay for new highways and bridges over the next five years.  The Highway bill being debated in Congress will cost somewhere in the neighborhood of $260 billion dollars over the next five years.  Meanwhile the money generated from giving away some of our most precious natural treasures would be a scant $2.4 billion according to the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office.

While it would only provide 1% of the money, it would represent a 100 percent threat to Alaska’s Arctic wilderness and our protected coastal areas. A spider-webbing network of roads, drills, pipelines and even airfields would criss-cross the Arctic Refuge, fragmenting the biological heart of the Refuge and the breeding ground of hundreds of thousands of Porcupine caribou.

Rushing to drill offshore would open thousands of miles of coastlines and hundreds of communities to the devastation the Gulf Coast experienced after BP’s Deepwater Horizon well blow out.  Oiled beaches, lost jobs, shuttered businesses – this time spread all across the Atlantic and Pacific coasts.

And the promised revenue from oil shale? Well, that’s been promised for over a century, but has yet to be commercially viable, much less environmentally safe.

Our nation needs a progressive, innovative energy policy and a balanced transportation plan. Five years ago, when the Congress last authorized the Transportation bill, it endured some ridicule for including a “bridge to nowhere” in Alaska.  Now it is being criticized for relying on revenue sources, such as drilling, that are insufficient to repair our bridges.  Do we really need to turn our wildlife refuges into oil fields to meet our transportation needs? Of course not.