Drilling in the Arctic Ocean poses grave threats to America's vanishing polar bears. Photo courtesy USFWS
America’s polar bears are struggling to survive — with biologists predicting they could disappear in just a few short decades. But Big Oil uses your tax dollars to drill in key polar bear habitat.
Sea turtles, dolphins and other Gulf Coast wildlife paid the price of the Deepwater Horizon drilling disaster. Yet Big Oil still spends your tax dollars on pursuing more risky drilling in the Gulf and other coastal waters.
Today, the U.S. Senate could vote to end the $4 billion in taxpayer giveaways to Big Oil – but we need your voice to make it happen.
“My name is (NAME) and I live in (STATE) and I’m calling to urge my Senator to support the Repeal Big Oil Tax Subsidies Act (S. 2204) being voted on today. I want my tax dollars to be invested in clean, renewable energy — and not be used to prop up polluters’ profits.”
Defenders' president and CEO, Jamie Rappaport Clark
This week, the National Journal’s Energy and Environment Experts Blog asked, “Who’s to blame for high gas prices?“ Read what Defenders president and CEO Jamie Rappaport Clark thinks Congress should do to redirect this country to a more sustainable energy future.
The phenomenon has become as reliable an indicator of spring as budding trees: gas prices go up just before peak summer driving season begins. Then, just as reliably, by Labor Day they’ve fallen again. According to 2012 Republican presidential candidates, the President of the United States has the ability to dictate these numbers at the pump. If only he had such power. But the reality is, as long as America is dependent on fossil fuels like oil, we’re at the mercy of those factors that influence the global market: Israel’s threatened war with Iran, the reduction in output from certain foreign producers, Wall Street speculators, Middle Eastern countries dominated by political unrest, and oil companies out to make a profit.
If the federal government is serious about redirecting this country to a more sustainable energy future, it should immediately eliminate the subsidies paid out to Big Oil–up to $4 billion each year. Instead of fattening the wallets of Big Oil CEOs, our government should be taking that money and investing it in clean energy solutions and higher fuel efficiency vehicles that will break our country’s dependence on foreign energy and dirty fossil fuels. Some in Congress are already taking steps to do just this. Sen. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.) recently introduced a measure that would end several tax benefits for major oil companies while extending a series of renewable energy tax breaks that have recently expired or are soon scheduled to do so. A vote on this forward-looking bill is expected in the coming days.
Instead of sacrificing America’s pristine lands and waters to profiteering oil companies, our leaders should be investing in long-term, clean energy and energy efficiency solutions that will end our dependence on dirty fossil fuels and break us from the cycle of rising gas prices forever.
Drilling in the pristine Arctic National Wildlife Refuge will not solve our country's energy needs. Photo courtesy of USFWS
Instead of sacrificing America’s pristine lands and waters to profiteering oil companies, our leaders should be investing in long-term, clean energy and energy efficiency solutions that will end our dependence on dirty fossil fuels and break us from the cycle of rising gas prices forever. Building a renewable energy portfolio will take some time, but by eliminating Big Oil’s tax break giveaway and investing that money in clean energy solutions now, Congress can put us on the track to get there. Without a realistic plan to end our country’s addiction to oil, the Republican leadership’s promise to lower gas prices rings as hollow as an empty gas tank.
As denning polar bear mothers care for their newborn cubs, the U.S. House could pass a devastating plan to industrialize the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge—the most important onshore denning grounds for these threatened animals that are struggling to survive.
This will be the most important vote on the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge in five years—and it will likely happen this week.
Scientists say that America’s polar bears could disappear in just a few short decades. But that’s not stopping Big Oil’s allies in Congress from handing over important polar bear homes for dirty drilling. And it’s not just the Arctic Refuge that’s at stake. This bill would also open up the Pacific and Atlantic coasts and waters in the eastern Gulf of Mexico.
It’s a sweetheart deal for Big Oil—and a sellout of one of our most pristine natural areas that provides too little, too late for funding today’s transportation needs.
It’s not just our polar bears that need your voice. The Arctic National Wildlife Refuge is one of America’s most unique natural treasures, supporting a vast array of wildlife including arctic foxes, grizzly bears, muskoxen, Dall sheep, wolves and wolverines. And the coastal areas that this bill would open up to Big Oil are home to sea turtles, dolphins, and other wildlife.
Together, we can protect the Arctic Refuge—and the special wildlife that depend on it to survive.
Mussels act as a water filter, keeping our rivers clean and healthy. But species like the tan riffleshell can no longer keep up with coal pollution. More than a third of freshwater mussel species are critically imperiled or already extinct.
Who cares about some little mussel that inhabits a few rivers in eastern Tennessee and southwest Virginia? Well, if you happen to live in the area, news that the tan riffleshell is on the verge of extinction could mean that your water isn’t safe to drink. For the rest of us, it’s yet another sign that pollution is taking a very serious toll on the environment.
Like all freshwater mussels, the tan riffleshell makes its living by eating small particles in the water. These so-called “filter feeders” remove sediment and other pollutants, thereby keeping our streams healthy enough to support other plants and animals, including ourselves. So when these little shellfish start disappearing, that means one of nature’s vital water filters is broken and can longer keep up with all the pollution being dumped into the river.
North America once boasted some 300 species of freshwater mussels, according to the Freshwater Mollusk Conservation Society. But as a result of land development, over-harvesting and chronic pollution over the last 200 years, 38 mussel species are already thought to be extinct and another 77 are considered imperiled.
Today, the greatest threat to mussels comes from various by-products of coal mining and coal-burning power plants. These pollutants contaminate our waterways with heavy metals and other environmental toxins that can kill mussels as well as countless other plants and animals.
Mussels aren’t the only ones threatened by fossil fuel development, however. More familiar imperiled species include:
Bowhead Whale: The remainder of the endangered bowhead whale population is at risk from contaminants and noise from off shore oil drilling and deadly collisions with ships. An oil spill could easily wipe out the small population of whales, which exists only in Arctic waters.
This Kemp's ridley sea turtle was rescued from the Gulf oil spill.
Kemp’s Ridley Sea Turtle: According to U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the Kemp’s ridley is the most seriously endangered of all sea turtles, and they only breed in Gulf waters. In the immediate aftermath of the Gulf oil disaster, 156 sea turtle deaths were recorded – most of them Kemp’s ridleys.
Whooping Crane: There are just 437 whooping cranes in the wild today, after overcoming near extinction in the 1940s. But the proposed Keystone Pipeline would run along the crane’s entire migratory path from Canada to Texas, and could destroy the flock with toxic waste , collisions and electrocutions from power lines, and the risk of oil spills.
Drilling in the Arctic. Spilling oil in the Gulf. Building a pipeline across the country. Removing mountaintops to get at more coal. All of these actions have dire consequences for our land and wildlife. Fossil fuels are dirty and dangerous, and they’re pushing many at-risk plant and animal species toward extinction. Oil company executives take home millions of dollars every year while the rest of us have to clean up the mess. It’s time to reduce our dependence on fossil fuels and rescue these species from the brink.
A year and a half since BP’s Deepwater Horizon rig exploded, killing 11 people and initiating the worst environmental disaster the country has ever seen, the oil company is headed back into the Gulf of Mexico. That’s right. On Wednesday, the federal government gave BP approval to launch its first deep-water drilling since the disaster.
According to the Houston Chronicle, under the permit issued by the Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement, the British oil giant has permission to begin drilling at its Kaskida field about 192 miles off the Louisiana coast. And not only do operations have the green light to begin immediately, but BP plans to drill the newly approved well in 6,034 feet of water – about 1,000 feet deeper than the Macondo well.
That wasn’t the oil giant’s only good news for the week. CNN Money said that on Monday, BP reported ”better-than-expected earnings” for this quarter, with profits nearly doubling from the same quarter last year, from $1.8 billion to $4.9 billion. The company’s net revenue increased by about 31% to $97.6 billion.
Recovery hasn’t come as easily to the Gulf, whose diverse wildlife and fragile habitats continue to feel the impacts of the toxic oil and chemical dispersants. Just today, researchers announced a potential tie between the BP oil disaster and the continued surge of dolphin deaths in the Gulf. A cluster of bacterial infections may be an indication of exposure to oil by the marine mammals, who have been dying in numbers far higher than normal. The St. Petersburg Times reports that from March 2010 to last week, 580 bottlenose dolphins and sperm whales have died and washed ashore in Florida, Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana and Texas. The total for last year was 265.
That investigation is continuing, but one thing we do know for sure: as long as we continue to hand over our country’s treasured coasts and fragile waters to Big Oil, we can continue to expect tragedies like the Deepwater Horizon oil disaster. Because if 205 million gallons of oil spewing into Gulf waters isn’t enough to teach us better than that, what is?
Lynx could be impacted by undoing oil and gas reforms.
Public lands throughout the country, including more than 245 million acres overseen by the Bureau of Land Management, are some of the last best habitats for wildlife like sage grouse, lynx and more. But some of these special places could soon be the target of a renewed push for oil and gas drilling.
Although wildlife must compete with the habitat degrading activities that traditionally occur on these lands — like mining, grazing and wildfire suppression — we have been very successful at making sure that healthy, intact forests and grasslands on public lands still offer wildlife a safe place to live.
Throughout the West, however, oil and gas drilling stands out as one of the biggest threats to wildlife and wild places. Drilling operations can consume thousands of acres of healthy habitat. Fortunately, the Obama administration has put in place leasing reforms that take into account just how important these lands are for thousands of species. The improved oil and gas leasing process now ensures the conservation of key wildlife and habitat, encourages public input and participation, and reduces conflict among stakeholders.
And while current onshore drilling levels have reached a 20-year high, Senator John Barrasso of Wyoming has introduced a bill that would reinstate the previous “Wild West” system of oil and gas leasing, which mostly ignored impacts on wildlife.
The sage grouse is another species that could be put at risk.
What’s worse is that Big Oil is pushing for this bad bill to be tacked onto legislation aimed at improving drilling safety in the wake of BP’s devastating Gulf oil geyser last year.
Don’t let this rollback sneak past, contact your senators today and ask them to vote NO on S. 1027 and vote NO on any amendment to S. 917 (the “spill bill”) that reverses the great progress made by Obama’s oil and gas leasing reforms.