Thursday, June 19, 2008

ANWR, Oil Development and Indigenous People

I don't know why, but I am still constantly amazed at how short sighted, narrow minded, selfish and ethnocentric (or perhaps just uninformed) some people are. For instance, I listened to a long diatribe yesterday from media propagandist Glenn Beck concerning the renewed pressure to drill in the Alaska National Wildlife Reserve. His basic and somewhat cartoonish thesis was,

"Screw the caribou and polar bears- let's start drilling now."

The thing is- there are several things, including the PEOPLE that live near these areas, that do not seem to be a part of public debate or consciousness on this topic at all. I believe that by any standard of spirituality or ethics this is WRONG- especially if one wears the name Christian. Christ instructed us to "love our neighbors as ourselves". Considering that, consider this:


ANWR and Indigenous People While oil development in ANWR would provide valuable revenue for some Native Americans, such as the Inupiat, it would have potentially disastrous impacts on other Native Americans, in particular the members of the Gwich'in Nation who live near ANWR. As they have for thousands of years, the Gwich'in depend on the Porcupine caribou herd for food, clothing, and tools. The caribou are central to their spiritual life. Oil development in the 1002 area of ANWR, the calving grounds of the Porcupine herd, would likely reduce the size of the herd and alter its annual migration patterns. This would, in turn, threaten the very survival of the Gwich'in culture.
Please pray that our neighbors and Native brothers will not be forgotten and run over in the name of "progress". May God's hand be upon them and protect and keep them and may "our people" be true and just representatives of our Lord in our dealings with them.

Indigenous People

The Gwich'in of northern Canada and Alaska have lived in their Arctic homeland

since the last ice age. The Gwich'in are caribou people. There is direct archaeological
evidence that the Gwich'in have depended upon the Porcupine Caribou Herd for at
least 12,000 years. They still depend upon the caribou for their subsistence needs as
well as their cultural survival. They are firmly opposed to oil exploration or
development in the herd's calving grounds on the coastal plain of the Arctic National
Wildlife Refuge. The Gwich'in have fought for permanent protection of the calving
grounds for more than a decade.
The calving grounds are a sacred place for the Gwich'in
"The calving grounds are on lands in Alaska, but it is our children who will
be affected by what happens there."
- Liz Hansen, Gwich'in elder from Old Crow, Yukon
"If the oil companies go into the calving grounds, it would be like drilling in
a hospital nursery. That's how we feel about it. We will do everything that
we can, everything in our power to prevent that, because it means our life."
- Norma Kassi, Gwich'in spokeswoman from Old Crow
"Our right to continue to live our traditions and to depend on the caribou
like we do is our constitutional right as Americans, it is our inherent right
as indigenous people, and our essential human right to our own means of
- Faith Gimmell, Gwich'in spokeswoman from Arctic Village, Alaska.

The Porcupine Caribou Herd

The 130,000-member Porcupine Caribou Herd has used the coastal plain of the

Arctic National Wildlife Refuge as its core calving area for tens of thousands of
years. Each year the female caribou travel to the coastal plan to give birth. 40,000
calves are born each year during a two-week period at the beginning of June. A
healthy calf-survival rate is critical to the continued survival of the herd. Biologists
say that the coastal plain of the Arctic Refuge is a "critical habitat:"

The coastal plain contains the nutritious plants that the caribou need after a
long winter during the vulnerable first few weeks of a calf's life, the coastal
plain has fewer predators than do the mountains to the south
on the coastal plain the caribou find areas to get relief from insects -
mosquitoes suck up to a quart of blood a week from a single caribou and
disrupt feeding patterns
Oil Development and Caribou
Caribou biologists tell us that caribou during the calving and post-calving periods do
not become acclimatized to the activity associated with oil development. If oil
development is allowed in the calving grounds, the pregnant females would be
forced to give birth in the mountains to the south where calf survival rates would
likely plummet. Oil wells and pipelines would also restrict caribou migration.
In summary, state-of-the-art technology has not prevented displacement of
calving from even the newer oilfields on the North Slope, and no proven
technology exists that would ensure unrestricted passage through an
oilfield of the large mid-summer aggregations of Porcupine Caribou.
Considering the high degree of uncertainty regarding mitigation of oilfield
impacts on caribou, ensuring the integrity of the calving grounds and early
summer range of the Porcupine Caribou Herd is a compelling reason for
applying the most precautionary management to the Arctic Refuge coastal
plain. The Porcupine Herd is an international resource too important to
- excerpt from a letter from 13 caribou biologists from Alaska and Canada
"America's Serengeti"
The wildlife spectacle of the Arctic Refuge is much more than caribou. Polar bears,
grizzlies, wolverines, musk oxen and wolves are just a few of the 200 animal species
that use the coastal plain. It is also nesting and staging habitat for millions of
migratory birds. Some 125 bird species migrate to the coastal plain from four
continents, every province in Canada and every state in the US. In the offshore
waters, endangered bowhead whales, belugas and three species of seal rear their
Moreover, the Arctic Refuge's coastal plain is a rare example of an
ecosystem where ecological and cultural processes continue to interact
much as they have for thousands of years . . . Five decades of biological
study and scientific research have confirmed that the coastal plain of the
Arctic National Wildlife Refuge forms a vital component of the biological
diversity of the Refuge and merits the same kind of permanent safeguards
and precautionary management as the rest of this original conservation
unit . . .
- excerpt from a letter from an international group of more than 240
What the oil companies don't say
development means hundreds of miles of roads and pipelines and dozens of oil
caribou, musk oxen, polar bears, migratory birds and other wildlife would be
harmed by oil development
there would be chronic oil and chemical spills (there are an average of more
than 400 spills per year in the Alaskan Arctic oil fields already under
oil development in the Refuge would accelerate the negative impacts of climate
95% of Alaska's Arctic coastal plain is already open for oil development
Geological Survey scientists predict less than a 6-month supply of oil for the US
increasing the fuel efficiency of cars and light trucks by 2-3 mpg would save
more oil than could ever be found under the calving grounds
oil development would destroy the coastal plains' wilderness value forever

Here is a reply I got, I want to share it and my response to it mostly to clarify my meanings and their source of inspiration:

Subject: RE: ANWR, Oil Development and Indigenous People
Date: Sat, 21 Jun 2008


This in about 2 minutes of research. I’m sure you’ve spent much more time than that on this topic. I’m also sure you could provide hundreds of links to blogs denouncing domestic oil exploration as: unethical, greedy, heartless, un-Christian, and more…

If there is a grain of truth to the first link above, which there appears to be, then should this “tribe” be renamed as hypocrites? Before you pray Scott…maybe you should remember that we are not tribes within a tribe. We are Americans. If there is a tribe, that should be the only one. If some of the articles above are correct, most of the Gwich’in tribe would be Canadien.

I had a very long reply typed out Scott…I deleted it all. For one reason: “I believe that by any standard of spirituality or ethics this is WRONG- especially if one wears the name Christian” What gives Scott Starr the right to judge others? Why is it un-Christian to have a belief that is opposite of yours?

Gotta go

My Reply:

Subject: RE: ANWR, Oil Development and Indigenous People
Date: Sat, 21 Jun 2008

Before I look at all the links- the quote, including a releveant part you excluded, you supplied was "...including the PEOPLE that live near these areas, that do not seem to be a part of public debate or consciousness on this topic at all. I believe that by any standard of spirituality or ethics this is WRONG- especially if one wears the name Christian."

The meaning was that the exclusion of the fact that there are people that live there who will pay the price for the equlibrium of their area being upset from the public consciousness and debate on the topic, or excluding elements of the issue- especially when it is done willfully and not out of ignorance is wrongful.

I did not condemn or judge anyone including Mr. Beck, who NEVER mentioned the fact that there are ANY people up there who are part of the issue. I made a moral statement. What is different about saying something like that from saying, "Homosexuality and same sex marriage are wrong"?

I don't need a "right to judge" on this- because I am not judging- I made a statement, from discernment, about morality and/or ethical standards that is not only biblical but nearly universal- at least among the sections of humanity that have any conscience remaining. I see it as no more judgmental than saying people should not abuse their children or use drugs. I believe that people should not abuse their children or use drugs- some people evidently believe that these things are ok... so am I really judging somebody for believing something opposite of what I believe? I think not. If one cannot make a statement about principles or practices that they discern as wrong being wrong- then there's a lot of people in politics and in the news commentary business and that have opinions that are in deep trouble- And we'd better strike the word hypocrites from our discourse and vocabulary- because its use means one is judging- and in fact may be applying to others a standard that is not being applied to themselves- which is ironically and maybe paradoxically
(especially paradoxically or self contradictory the way you used it) what the word means .

The only other thing in your reply that is a concern to me is this;
We are Americans. If there is a tribe, that should be the only one. If some of the articles above are correct, most of the Gwich’in tribe would be Canadien."

I am not sure what you are implying- but it seems that you're saying Americans are the only people worth our consideration on moral or ethical questions like this? Since they are Canadians- should we disregard them along with the caribou and the bears? Well, if there is a tribe- Human should be that tribe. That's biblical and I would certainly challenge you to come up with any of Christ's teachings that would dispute that- considering he taught us to love our neighbors and enemies as well.

I love ya man, just be careful about this kind of approach to things- this kind of attitude, as I have addressed on other topics in the past, is one reason that much of the rest of the world has much distaste for Americans- and "We" end up paying for that in blood and treasure as well as spiritually. God does not show favoritism- is not pro- American and not a nationalist or he also cares about Canadians and Indians, his creation, etc.

The scriptures are emphatic and replete with teaching that presents God as not judging or treating man, any man, with respect of persons. In other words, God is just and equitable in his dealings with man- Romans 2 speaks directly to your concerns about judging- but is also emphatic about applying standards universally. Maybe that's a problem for us both- for you with regards to American nationalism and me with regards to Indigenous people. But, I have no illusions that Indians are above reproach- all I have done is insist that the fact that they are there and they should be considered- and that their rights should be respected. I also have not said that ANWR should not be drilled- but that several things should be considered carefully and looked as part of the equation before acting and if and when the drilling is done. At least in my own view thats a perfectly sound position. Anyhow, look at Romans 2 and pay special attention to verse 11:

1You, therefore, have no excuse, you who pass judgment on someone else, for at whatever point you judge the other, you are condemning yourself, because you who pass judgment do the same things. 2Now we know that God's judgment against those who do such things is based on truth. 3So when you, a mere man, pass judgment on them and yet do the same things, do you think you will escape God's judgment? 4Or do you show contempt for the riches of his kindness, tolerance and patience, not realizing that God's kindness leads you toward repentance? 5But because of your stubbornness and your unrepentant heart, you are storing up wrath against yourself for the day of God's wrath, when his righteous judgment will be revealed. 6God "will give to each person according to what he has done."[a] 7To those who by persistence in doing good seek glory, honor and immortality, he will give eternal life. 8But for those who are self-seeking and who reject the truth and follow evil, there will be wrath and anger. 9There will be trouble and distress for every human being who does evil: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile; 10but glory, honor and peace for everyone who does good: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile. 11For God does not show favoritism.

All who sin apart from the law will also perish apart from the law, and all who sin under the law will be judged by the law. 13For it is not those who hear the law who are righteous in God's sight, but it is those who obey the law who will be declared righteous. 14(Indeed, when Gentiles, who do not have the law, do by nature things required by the law, they are a law for themselves, even though they do not have the law, 15since they show that the requirements of the law are written on their hearts, their consciences also bearing witness, and their thoughts now accusing, now even defending them.) 16This will take place on the day when God will judge men's secrets through Jesus Christ, as my gospel declares.

Acts 10:34-35

34 Then Peter began to speak: "I now realize how true it is that God does not show favoritism 35 but accepts men from every nation who fear him and do what is right.

Collossians 3:25

25 Anyone who does wrong will be repaid for his wrong, and there is no favoritism.

1st Peter 1:13-25

Be Holy
13Therefore, prepare your minds for action; be self-controlled; set your hope fully on the grace to be given you when Jesus Christ is revealed. 14As obedient children, do not conform to the evil desires you had when you lived in ignorance. 15But just as he who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do; 16for it is written: "Be holy, because I am holy."[a] 17Since you call on a Father who judges each man's work impartially, live your lives as strangers here in reverent fear. 18For you know that it was not with perishable things such as silver or gold that you were redeemed from the empty way of life handed down to you from your forefathers, 19but with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect. 20He was chosen before the creation of the world, but was revealed in these last times for your sake. 21Through him you believe in God, who raised him from the dead and glorified him, and so your faith and hope are in God.
22Now that you have purified yourselves by obeying the truth so that you have sincere love for your brothers, love one another deeply, from the heart.[b] 23For you have been born again, not of perishable seed, but of imperishable, through the living and enduring word of God. 24For,
"All men are like grass,
and all their glory is like the flowers of the field;
the grass withers and the flowers fall,
25but the word of the Lord stands forever."[c] And this is the word that was preached to you.
  1. 1 Peter 1:16 Lev. 11:44,45; 19:2; 20:7
  2. 1 Peter 1:22 Some early manuscripts from a pure heart
  3. 1 Peter 1:25 Isaiah 40:6-8
Love ya man.

Subject: RE: ANWR, Oil Development and Indigenous People
Date: Sat, 21 Jun 2008 19:47:25 -0500

You’re right, I did a very poor job of expressing myself. Here’s the deal Scott…over the years you have championed the plight of Native Americans. In and of itself, this is fine…all people are worthy of a Champion. But, a few points from my perspective…

1) When do ‘Native Americans’ become plain old Americans? Why does there need to be a distinction? Why is their plight sadder than that of poor black Americans shooting each other in the ‘hoods? Or poor white Americans in the hills of Kentucky or West Virginia? Or red-skinned ‘Native’ Americans living in poverty due to alcohol abuse? This list is almost endless, even when only considering needy Americans. You make my point in a way, only you put it in a better perspective. We are of the HUMAN race. But as a people we are Americans. I made the statement in regards to Canadian Indians because a large part of that particular tribe lives in Canada and would be unaffected by ANWR.

2) Well….forget number 2. The truth is, I just don’t have the energy for this type of debate right now Scott.

Let me instead try to summarize my feelings. I don’t understand what is sacred about a patch of ground in Northern Alaska. I don’t understand why it is important to protect a very small number of peoples’ ability to hunt caribou. It is after all 2008…there are several ways to put dinner on the table. I don’t understand why we cannot, as a people (remember, American people), be as self-reliant as possible in regards to our own energy needs. Why should we not look for any way possible to reduce oil purchases from countries that view us as heretics and the enemy?

I agree with many of your perspectives Scott. But evaluate your own post below. Why are billions of barrels of oil denied to OTHER Americans to protect this tribe? And for that matter, protect them from what? Do the research and see how many times this same tribe leased their own land for oil exploration. Or tried to and failed. They just don’t seem to be victims here. Their plight looks more to be sour grapes at their own poor political and financial decisions in the past.

In regards to my statement on judging others and hypocrisy…does this shed a better light on why I would be a tad perturbed? Why are we calling into account a Christian’s standard of morals or ethics in regards to this issue??? There are Christians dying for the cause of Jesus every day. We should be championing those suffering in the Sudan. These are the issues of our world. I know I will sound callous, but I don’t care about the caribou. Nor do I care if German Americans can get German beer. Or if Japanese Americans have trouble finding good sushi. Whimsical, but you get my point. The world around us changes. That happens in every country, to every native tribe.

Ok, off to supper.

Love you too

My reply:

These are good questions. One thing I have learned to do is view these kinds of things- especially among friends- not as debates but rather as discussions or dialogs. That is difficult I know even among the best of friends- especially when you factor in people's passion for the subjects. But, its doable. If you can think of it that way it doesn't seem so urgent to go back and forth and takes a lot less energy.

I don't wanna write something long here- but do want to make a few comments.

First I read all the links you sent. The first one is easily the most well written and objective. I wouldn't say its perfectly objective or flawless- but the case is well presented.

There are a few things you stated that you don't understand that I can give some insight into- maybe even without being long winded- like that part about sacred. I won't go into the religious aspects as of yet. But let me comment about the question " When do ‘Native Americans’ become plain old Americans?"

What you have to grasp first is that despite the matter of national citizenship their is still a strong cultural distinction betweeen the traditional views of tribes (at least in the ideal expression of culture) and mainstream American culture. In many ways these differences are irreconciliable.
It is much the same way between Christian culture and the mainstream collectivist culture. For Christian culture to be absorbed into mainstream culture would mean the death of Christianity- at least authentic Christianity- which as I have admonished is actually dangerously near. So, at the bottom, certain aspects of Native culture cannot be absorbed without the all out cultural death of Native identity. I am not sure how nuanced your thinking on this is- but the call for becoming a plain old American is in many ways a call for the complete assimilation of one culture into another. To answer your question of when this will happen- I will say not within our lifetimes our within the next few generations.
If you ask why there needs to be a persistent, separate Native identity at all- I would answer because Indian culture (again in its ideal form) is not compartmentalized, separating the spiritual life from the corporate community life as mainstream American life mostly is. Indian culture (ideally) is holistic and spiritual and its values inseparable from its citizenship in the U.S. or otherwise. Indians, or Idigenous North American Peoples, are in a unique position where they are at once full American citizens and yet are members of two distinct cultures that overlap somewhat in areas and not at all in others- again much the same as Christian culture (is supposed to be- ideally).

To wrap this up I will give an example from a recent "discussion". The quotations were put around the word discussion because the person I was "discussing" with became quite upset about my refusal to give in to his reasoning and considered it an argument when I did not consider it one because I was not nearly so emotionally charged up as he was and was merely stating my point of view. He told me I was a racist in fact- which after he calmed down and actually listened he admitted was wrong.

He asked me whether I would rather be viewed as a man or as an Indian man. I explained that this was a fallacious question- and not so much a question as a gambit or mechanism by which he was leading me to a syllogism or logical trap. He vehemently insisted that I MUST answer the question as man or Indian man. So, with the qualification that this was a fallacious question I answered indian man. That was when I became a racist in his view. But, by much persistence and patience I explained as I did above that such distinctions cannot and should not be made. To demonstrate, I asked him if he'd rather be considered as just a man or as a Christian man. After he calmed down enough- he admitted that he understood what I was saying and understood that you can't just force this false dichotomy or false separation on people. I am not just a man, just an American or just a Cherokee or just a Christian or child of God- I am simultaneously all of these and all of these bring a certain set of propisitions and considerations to the table- and none of these can be separated out without dehumanizing me and/or robbing me of part of my identity. Some would call this take on things multiculturalism and call it a curse. To that I would say that giving something a politically charged label and dubbing it as a negative does not by any means close the subject or the debate- its an oversimplification which is the tool of all propagandists.

That's already more than I intended to say. But, to conclude for now, let me say that acknowledging the rights or the problems that would be caused for some people in the vicinity of ANWR by the drilling enterprises is not showing favoritism for the few over the many. Niether does it show inequality. Equality and assimilation are not the same thing. Lastly, if you separate the caribou and other wildlife in the equation out and isolate them like you suggest it is much easier not to care about them I admit. But, as stated in my initial message you cannot really do that- they are part of an ecosystem and part and parcel to the human equation. If you say you don't care about them- you are really saying you don't care about the people or the big picture either. I would not saddle you with that accusation, because i know you better than that- but would admonish you to choose words carefully.

One more thing, concerning your thoughts about the importance of missionary work- consider this article i found about missionary work among the Gwich'iin.


Three reasons why all Christians should support protecting the Arctic Refuge

By Peter Illyn, March 15, 2005

As a minister in an evangelical Christian stewardship ministry, I believe the current push to open the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to industrial oil drilling is an enormous mistake.

The problem is not that the benefits would be so small – an estimated six-month supply of oil. The bigger issue is our responsibility before God to steward a unique natural and national treasure and our ability to exercise some self- control. The Refuge must be protected for three sets of reasons: biological, moral and symbolic.

The Arctic Refuge is a place of biological wonder. All throughout the Alaska and Canada boreal forest, during the same week in the spring, scattered groups of caribou hear the identical inner voice and know that "it is the time." The pregnant mothers stop eating, silently raise their heads toward the north, and with a slow, steady walk embark on an arduous journey. During their six-week pilgrimage to the herd's birthing grounds on the Refuge, the caribou initially are in groups of five, then ten, then hundreds, until they reach hundreds of thousands.

The caribou, dutiful to some unseen force, are drawn like iron shavings to a magnet. They struggle through deep snow over steep mountain glaciers and then swim across swollen rivers of ice. Many die, yet the caribou keep walking--steadfast, faithful, obedient to the spark of God within them. Two months later, when the caribou finally reach the refuge, they collectively give birth to their calves. Within a week the Refuge is full of moon-eyed calves, running and pronging in the meadow, overcome with a bliss rooted in the simple joy of life.

In all this, I cannot help but see the hand of God, the hand of a Creator who calls all creation to fruitfulness and then gives each species some wonderful form of divine providence to make that fruitfulness possible. Migration is one of nature's ways to be obedient to the wisdom of God. Be it a monarch butterfly's paper-thin wings struggling for 3,000 miles to reach a grove of trees in Mexico or the songbirds at my backyard feeder, migration is a species' sacred expression of honoring God's goodness, wisdom and providence.

If we saw the earth from God's perspective--in both time and scope-- we would see a constant motion of seasons, colors, tides, swirling clouds and flowing rivers. We would see migrations: salmon and whales, terns and geese, butterflies and hummingbirds, and caribou.

The wild instinct to migrate is evidence that God loves all of creation--not just humanity. Migrations should make us humble and small in spirit. Protecting the migrations of our fellow creatures is a test of our stewardship, our faithfulness, our willingness to think long-term and to be other-minded. It is a test of who and what we serve--for it was Jesus who stated, "You cannot serve both God and Money."

Drilling for oil in the Arctic Refuge is at heart a moral question. Are we willing to risk unraveling the caribou migration--the last great mammal migration left on the earth? Is this really our best thinking? Is it wise, faithful and prudent? Is it good stewardship? Or is it proof that we as a nation have become so short-sighted, mean-spirited, and self-centered that we no longer have boundaries that we are unwilling to cross; that nothing is off limits anymore?

The oil industry promises that this time there will be little environmental damage, but there is no evidence to back their claim. Instead, what you see in other fields in Alaska is ongoing pollution, including an oil spill virtually every day. If we allow drilling in the Refuge, there will be no going back.

Judeo-Christian theology defines holy as something set aside either by God for a divine purpose, or by humans, for service to God. It is time to consider the Arctic Refuge as a holy place as the Gwich'in people of the Arctic long have. They call the Refuge Iizhik Gwats'an Gwandaii Goodlit, or the Sacred Place Where Life Begins. The caribou's birthing grounds are such a consecrated place that it is taboo for a Gwich'in to ever set foot there. For thousands of years, the Gwich'in people have seen themselves as stewards of the caribou, dependent upon them for food, clothing, tools and shelter. Theirs is still a culture where prosperity is measured by ways other than money and possessions.

The general public may see the Gwich'in struggle to protect the Refuge as a simple human rights concern--and it is that. But there's more to the story. Over 100 years ago, Hudson Stuck, a mountain- climbing missionary on a dogsled journey in Alaska, shared his faith with the Gwich'in people. They converted to Christianity―and their faith remains vibrant and strong today. Last year I had the privilege of speaking at numerous evangelical Christian colleges with the Rev. Trimble Gilbert, an Anglican priest, customary chief and tribal elder of the Gwich'in people. At age 70, he talks about his years growing-up, remembering how he would awaken in his tent to mornings as cold as 70 below zero and snowshoe to the prayer tent, where the whole clan would gather for daily prayers before heading out to hunt and fish.

Rev. Trimble had a simple message for the college-aged Christians: "Remember that we Gwich'in are your family in Christ." The Gwich'in are asking the United States, as a nation founded on Christian values, not to desecrate their sacred lands. They are also asking the Christian church to stand with them, to raise its voice, to "speak out for those who cannot speak for themselves" (Proverbs 31:8) as advocates for their people and for the caribou they depend upon.

Last, whether we drill for oil in the Refuge will indicate symbolically who we are and what we value as a nation. If we allow the desecration of this place--set aside by God and held sacred by the native people--just to make a quick profit, then we must face our failed faithfulness as stewards of God's creation. Every addict believes that the painless solution to his or her craving is to increase the supply of their obsession, though that may wreak great devastation on his family. In our automobile-dependent culture, have we, like the drug addict, lost such self-control that we are willing to harm a place of biological wonder and our caribou-dependent brothers and sisters in the faith who live there?

Christians in many states are struggling with debates over creationism-versus-evolution in the public schools. Following the 2004 election our new Congress is more reactive to conservative Christian values than ever before, yet ironically the Refuge is now under its greatest attack.

Where is the rest of the church's voice on issues of stewardship and human justice? Our silence is deafening. If we drill in the Arctic Refuge, this place of God’s wonder, then we are truly trading the sacred for the propane (pun sadly intended).


Scott Starr said...


July 30, 2001, WASHINGTON, D.C. – Change the Bush energy plan or reject it, the National Council of Churches (NCC) and Coalition on the Environment and Jewish Life (COEJL) urge in a letter delivered to every U.S. Representative today.

The plan – set to come before the U.S. House of Representatives on Wednesday – “is not a balanced plan,” write the Rev. Dr. Robert Edgar, NCC General Secretary, and Sharon Bloome, COEJL Chair. “It does not reflect our obligations to protect the environment and human health, nor is it economically prudent.”

Edgar and Bloome ask House members to reject the proposed energy legislation unless it:

- Significantly increases government standards for automobile fuel efficiency from the current average 27.5 miles per gallon. A 10 miles per gallon increase would be significant, Edgar and Bloome say.

- Treats sports utility vehicles (SUVs) as cars. Currently, SUVs are held to a lower fuel efficiency standard than are automobiles.

- Rejects drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. “Drilling in the ANWR only delays the day when we must reduce our use of oil, and it would unnecessarily harm a unique ecosystem and already threatened species,” Edgar and Bloome write.

- Significantly increases incentives for renewable energy and energy efficiency and removes subsidies for oil, coal and nuclear energy. The bill provides $33.5 billion over 10 years in tax breaks – at least 75 percent of that for fossil fuels and nuclear energy. “Oil and coal companies do not need assistance from U.S. taxpayers – oil companies have reported record profits in recent quarters … “ Edgar and Bloome write.

The full text of the letter to U.S. House of Representatives members follows:


July 30, 2001

Dear Representative:

We are writing to express our concerns about the omnibus energy legislation coming before the House as it is not a balanced plan. It does not reflect our obligations to protect the environment and human health, nor is it economically prudent.

We urge you, on behalf of the National Council of Churches (36 Protestant, Orthodox, and historic Black Church communions) and the Coalition on the Environment and Jewish Life (29 national Jewish organizations), to support the following improvements in the bill:

· Replace the tiny increase of CAFE standards now in the bill with a significant increase and close the SUV loophole. These are the most effective steps we can take to help consumers with energy costs, reduce our reliance on imported oil, and reduce greenhouse gas emissions. We understand from press reports that the National Academy of Sciences report on CAFE requested by the Congress last year shows that a significant increase – 10 miles per gallon - in CAFE standards is both possible and desirable. We believe an increase in CAFE standards will also have a positive effect on the economy, stimulating innovation and increasing competitiveness. It is simply not right to fail to do what we know we can to help people and protect creation.

· Remove the provision to drill in the ANWR. We cannot meaningfully reduce our dependence on imported oil by drilling – we simply do not have the reserves. Nor can we depend upon expanded supply of oil to meet our energy needs in the future. Reducing our use of oil is the only way to accomplish these objectives – and we have the technology to do so. Drilling in ANWR only delays the day when we must reduce our use of oil, and it would unnecessarily harm a unique ecosystem and already threatened species.

· Significantly increase incentives for renewable energy and energy efficiency, and remove subsidies for oil, coal, and nuclear energy. The bill provides $33.5 billion over 10 years in tax breaks. At least 75 percent, or $25.2 billion, are for fossil fuels and nuclear energy. We have an obligation to our children and to our Creator to invest in a clean energy future. Investments in energy efficiency and renewables over the past 10 years have yielded strong results according to a recent Department of Energy study. Oil and coal companies do not need assistance from US taxpayers – oil companies have reported record profits in recent quarters, and power plant construction is at an all time high as a result of market demands.

If these improvements in the legislation are not made, I urge you not to support it.

Now is the time to set a new and positive direction for American energy policy, one that will lead our nation in a transition from an energy system that harms human health, causes global warming, degrades land and marine ecosystems, and pollutes the earth to an energy system that provides clean, renewable, and reliable energy that does not threaten human health or the environment. That future is within our grasp. Not to reach for it would be a gross abdication of our moral responsibility.

Thank you for your consideration of our views.


The Rev. Dr. Robert Edgar,
General Secretary, National Council of Churches
475 Riverside Drive, New York, NY 10115

Sharon Bloome
Chair, Coalition on the Environment and Jewish Life
443 Park Avenue South, 11th floor, New York, NY 10016

tws1615 said...

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