Arctic plunder

the White House has passed a bill that permits oil and gas exploration in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. So far, 95 per cent of Alaska's North Slope that hosts the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge was open to exploration. With the passing of the bill, the remaining five per cent of the pristine region is also threatened. "We are profoundly disappointed that the White House turned against the wishes of the us citizens,' said Carl Pope, executive director of Sierra Club, a conservation group. "Drilling in the Arctic Refuge would not address our nation's energy needs or make a dent in gas prices,' he added.

Rodger Schlickeisen, president, Defenders of Wildlife, called the bill "staggeringly irresponsible,' and "stuffed to the brim with short-sighted rollbacks of rules that protect wildlife and the environment across the country.' He termed the action as "the best vote that big oil's money could buy.' The Democrats allege that the move is a pay-off to the oil and gas companies, which donated large sums of money to the Republicans during the elections. "The bill has nothing to do with providing the us citizens with a more secure energy future. It is a multi-million give away of the country's resources and taxpayers' dollars to big oil, already awash in record profits,' said Nick J Rahall II, a Democrat.

However, Bush has defended the move by declaring that exploring oil and environmental protection is compatible. The legislation includes us $33.5 billion in tax incentives for the industry over the next 10 years. A major bulk of this incentive, us $27 billion, would go to the conventional energy producers for drilling oil and gas and to develop nuclear energy. An amount of us $3.3 billion would go to the coal industry to invest or produce electricity through the so-called clean coal technology.

Agencies like the us Fish and Wildlife Service claim that the gains of the activity would be modest as compared to the environmental impact. The service describes the refuge as "among the most complete, pristine, and undisturbed ecosystems on the Earth.' An environmental impact statement submitted to Congress in 1987 said that oil development and production in the coastal plain in the north of the refuge would have a major impact on one of its two caribou herds and on its musk oxen.

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