Extreme Environmentalists, the Gulf Oil Disaster and ANWR

Arctic fox and oil barrels on the coastal plain, Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, Alaska.

Arctic fox and oil barrels on the coastal plain, Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, Alaska. Please click on the image to view a larger version of the photo.

Hey Folks,

Excuse my rant; but, this is my blog, and I’m about to wander in the mtns for a while. Before I go, I need to speak out.

I read earlier today of ex-Alaska Governor Sarah Palin’s latest comments about the current disaster in the Gulf of Mexico. She states “Radical environmentalists: you are damaging the planet with your efforts to lock up safer drilling areas”.

Her basic premise is that the Deepwater Horizon catastrophe is the work and responsibility of “extreme environmentalists”. Let’s disregard, for now, the fact that she’s been a proponent of offshore drilling for years now (including her 2008 run for VP where she repeatedly claimed that Drill Baby, Drill “also means safely tapping into our offshore sources, safely, environmentally safe”. In her own words, whilst debating then-Senator Joe Biden she stammered “You even called drilling — safe, environmentally-friendly drilling offshore — as raping the outer continental shelf. There — with new technology, with tiny footprints even on land, it is safe to drill and we need to do more of that.

“friendly”? If it weren’t so sad it would be farcical; what the hell is “friendly” about extracting crude oil from beneath the ocean? Makes me wonder what kind of “friends” some of these people keep.  If one of my friends came over to the house and started drilling a hole 20 000′ into the lawn I’d say they’re outta their mind.

I’ve no problem with a discussion of the collective responsibility owned by our society. I hopefully made that clear in my earlier post here. But I won’t absolve the oil industry of their responsibility, nor the clowns who would reduce a discussion of the energy policy of the world’s largest energy consumer to a 3-word bumper-sticker slogan: “Drill Here, Drill Now”  of theirs, which is the intent of Palin’s outburst. Sarah Palin’s remarks, along with this childish assessment from Ted Nugent is not an honest critique of any social construct at all. In fact, it’s nothing more than the opposite of that; an attempt to divert attention from the direct and very palpable targets of hella-oil, political corruption and bumper-sticker political campaigns to a somewhat more nebulous, transparent target. That is intolerable.

A cursory examination of Sarah Palin’s recent article, where she musters the troops by pointing the finger directly at their favoritest of enemies: environmentalists.

“This is a message to extreme “environmentalists” who hypocritically protest domestic energy production offshore and onshore. There is nothing “clean and green” about your efforts. Look, here’s the deal: when you lock up our land, you outsource jobs and opportunity away from America and into foreign countries that are making us beholden to them. Some of these countries don’t like America. Some of these countries don’t care for planet earth like we do – as evidenced by our stricter environmental standards.”

Better yet, how about a message to “extreme idiots”? Don’t pretend this is about outsourcing jobs; BP is a British Company – what better outsourcing than to siphon the profits from American oil to foreign countries? Or, better yet, she works for FOX News, a corporation whose 2nd largest owner is from where? Saudi Arabia. I’d ask if it’s not OK for us to buy foreign oil, why is it OK for her to work for their media outlets?

Anyway, she’s wrong. There is plenty clean and green about extreme “environmentalists” who work to protect wildlands in the US. The coastal plain of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge is one of the few places still “green and clean” and that’s largely thanks to the folks she’s insulting with her accusations. Here’s green:

Brooks Range meets the coastal plain, Brooks Mountain Range foothills, Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, ANWR, Alaska.

Brooks Range meets the coastal plain, Brooks Mountain Range foothills, Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, ANWR, Alaska. Please click on the image to view a larger version of the photo.

A greater point might be made in reference to jobs though. How many jobs in the Gulf region have been lost by this single incident? What economic cost is escalating daily because of these strict environmental standards?

Why do these “stricter environmental standards” exist at all? Are they a function of hysterically screaming “Drill Here, Drill Now”? Of course not! Those standards, though clearly far from tight enough, are the result of protests, studies, activism (including, yes, lawsuits) and diligent, hard work by the very same extreme environmentalists she’s now attacking. If it were not for some of these “radicals”, this kind of disaster wouldn’t be as uncommon as it is. If the environmentalists are guilty of anything, its of not resisting this ecological violence forcefully enough. It’s the compromises they’ve made, not the positions they defended, that contributed to this situation.

“You’re not preventing environmental hazards; you’re outsourcing them and making drilling more dangerous.”

Excuse me? She just got through months and months of telling us how “totally safe and environmentally friendly” this offshore drilling is. Or perhaps we shouldn’t have taken her word for it. In (BP America VP) David Rainey’s own words, offshore drilling is “both safe and protective of the environment”. The oil industry has been clamoring for years about how their fancy new gizmos and gadgets, the very latest in technologies, afford safe, friendly offshore drilling. Now Sarah is claiming this drilling is dangerous and hazardous. Why were they lying all this time?

“We need permission to drill in safer areas, including the uninhabited arctic land of ANWR. It takes just a tiny footprint – equivalent to the size of LA’s airport – to tap America’s rich and plentiful oil and gas up north. ANWR’s drilling footprint is like a postage stamp on a football field.”

You already DO have permission to drill in “safer areas” (your husband used to work for BP – how much time did he spend in the Beaufort Sea?). Onshore? How about 95% of the entire Alaska arctic coastal plain is open to drilling? What Sarah means is “permission to drill in those areas we haven’t yet squeezed dry”.

Re; the postage stamp. Seriously, if I hear this absurd remark once more, someone needs to lose an eye. Here’s an analogy that might bring some perspective to the ecological sensitivity of the arctic coastal plain known as Sec 1002: If I stab you in the eye with a tiny little needle, are you going to be OK, simply because the hole, the tiniest pinprick, is like a postage stamp on a football field?

Further, on Oct 21 2008 Sarah Palin said of the McCain/Palin strategy for energy development:

“John {McCain} and I have to adopt an all-of-the-above approach to meet America’s great energy challenge for you. That means harnessing alternative sources, like wind, and solar, and biomass, and geothermal.

And we will develop clean-coal technology. And we will safely drill for the billions of barrels of oil that we have underground, including off-shore.”

Clearly her position was not one of opposition to off-shore drilling. Sarah Palin didn’t advocate for drilling off-shore as an alternative to on-shore drilling; there was no “in lieu of” here. She advocated off-shore drilling in ADDITION to on-shore drilling. In fact, she didn’t even mention the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. Why not? Because this isn’t about “extreme environmentalists” at all. She knew, and still knows, that virtually every poll taken has shown the majority of the American public are opposed to opening the Refuge to drilling. So we’re a country of extremists now, apparently.

Other pro-drilling comments recently have included Alaska Congressman Don Young parroting Rush Limbaugh’s statement that

“This is not an environmental disaster, and I will say that again and again because it is a natural phenomenon. Oil has seeped into this ocean for centuries, will continue to do it. During World War II there was over 10 million barrels of oil spilt from ships, and no natural catastrophe. … We will lose some birds, we will lose some fixed sealife, but overall it will recover.”

No, Mr Young – stupidity is a natural phenomenon, not oil rigs exploding in the Gulf of Mexico. Unfortunately for the communities (human and other) directly affected by this tragedy, the oil is not “seeping” but spewing into the ocean. To pretend this disaster is a “natural phenomenon” is the equivalent of calling the Vietman War a natural phenomenon – people have been fighting and killing and dying for centuries, no? How about a drunk driver tears his Mack truck into you as you walk across the street? What could be more a “natural phenomenon” than violent death?

To claim that this is not a catastrophe merely because “overall it will recover” is as insulting to my intelligence as it is an expression of Mr Young’s own lack thereof. Catastrophic does not mean unable to recover from. In fact, it means

1. “involving or causing sudden great damage or suffering” or,

2. “extremely unfortunate or unsuccessful”

The tragic events still unfolding in the Gulf of Mexico fit both of those definitions. This is indeed a catastrophe, and to attempt to leverage political gain out of the harm being done to people, to wildlife, to plants, to the ecology of the Gulf suggests a boundless moral bankruptcy. Mr Young, screw you.

Red Phalarope (Phalaropus fulicarius), Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, ANWR, Alaska.

Red Phalarope (Phalaropus fulicarius), Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, ANWR, Alaska. Please click on the image to view a larger version of the photo.

That these 2 people are Alaskans, both of whom saw firsthand the devastation of the EXXON-VALDEZ disaster barely 20 years ago makes their commentary here all the more reprehensible. To borrow a phrase from climate scientist Joe Romm, rather than sitting on her porch straining to glimpse Russia, Sarah Palin would do well to look over her shoulder where she might really see Valdez, where at least (and probably far more than) 11 million gallons of crude oil dumped into the pristine waters of the the Prince William Sound. Mr Young, ask the herring fisherman of Cordova if they felt the events of March 1989 were catastrophic? Ask the nearly seven thousand people who reported chemical induced illnesses from the oil toxins. Ask the 250 thousand seabirds, thousands of marine mammals and countless other coastal marine organisms that died as a result of Exxon-Mobil’s mess.

A catastrophe, Mr Young, is not the 1-plus million dollars you’ve spent on your high-priced DC lawyers fending of the Justice Dept’s ongoing investigations into your own political liveliness. A catastrophe is the lives lost when a Blowout Preventer failed to stem a gas leak in Transocean Limited’s oil rig, Deepwater Horizon, and the devastation it’s wreaking on a whole host of people and creatures who can’t fend off toxic sludge. That, Don, is a catastrophe.

The final comment I want to make (for now) pertains to the noise in the media about whether President Barack Obama is angry enough about this. I’m not going to defend everything this administration has done, particularly in this instance, because I do think they’ve dropped the ball in a few areas. But really? “get angrier”? Folks, I don’t want a president whose response is to stamp his feet and fume. A tantrum isn’t a solution. Not for grownups. I want a president who ensures things are done, and done correctly. If you want to argue that particular issue, please go right ahead. But if all you have to worry about is does the President’s expression of anger measure up to your requirements, I’d suggest you should perhaps start asking WHY you want him to be angry? Why don’t YOU get angry? We don’t need to outsource our emotions. Ratchet up your own feelings, and demand swift political action and complete, immediate retribution.

I’ll be back in a few weeks.



11 thoughts on “Extreme Environmentalists, the Gulf Oil Disaster and ANWR

  1. Pingback: Tweets that mention ANWR, the Gulf of Mexico oil spill, extreme environmentalists, Sarah Palin and Don Young. | Skolai Images Stock Photo Blog -- Topsy.com

  2. Patrick

    An epochal rant indeed. So many absurd and ridiculous self-rescuing comments are being thrown out there in light of the BP spill. Thanks for tuning in hard on them and showing how truly nonsensical it is. No doubt, you will have much better time in the mountains after unloading that first! Enjoy your off-the-grid respite that Alaska delivers so well.

  3. Bill Leahy


    In two words, McCarthy style……”Right on!”
    Well put. Enjoy your time in the mountains.

    Bill Leahy

  4. Dave Taylor

    Amen brother, amen. I would LOVE to see Sarah or Don respond to this – hilarity would surely ensue. Enjoy your time away from “all this”.

  5. Mark

    A well deserved rant Carl. I read her post and just shook my head, but nothing she says anymore really surprises me. Although I would like to shrug her off as just not being worth the emotional energy, it bothers me more at how many buy into her crap. Any attacks against her just get brushed off as “liberal media critics.”. I suppose the same would apply to your Mr. Young, Limbaugh, Linhoffe, or any of the others. What did surprise me were the apparently genuine criticisms of the Louisiana governor on the lack of urgency on many fronts by BP and the gov’t, but then turning around and criticizing the moratorium on drilling.

  6. Richard Wong

    Even if one has no prior opinions on Palin and this issue, reading her comments about “extreme environmentalists” are to blame and then go back and to later say a few sentences later than America cares more than anyone else because of our “stricter environmental standards”, it makes no sense. Total contradiction. We wouldn’t have environmental standards if it were for those “extremists”, basically anyone against Drill Baby Drill in her opinion.

    Maybe having Palin get so much press is a good thing. Most people can see how flawed those arguments are much more clearly when she states them.

  7. Paul Grecian

    When I heard Palin’s remarks I had to laugh or I would have burst a blood vessel in my head. Your rant is well received by me. We know what kind of crazy logic we are dealing with now. Is it even possible to reason with comments like hers?

  8. David Leland Hyde

    Carl, this is a wonderful post. I am sure glad you are going after these lame-brains, thank you. I hope they stumble across your rant. Probably if they did they would not get it anyway. For some time I thought perhaps the non-black lining to this cloud would be that more people would realize we need to move away from OIL USE. However, even a tragedy of this magnitude is obviously not enough to wake OIL SHLEPPERS out of their denial. First they deny that spewing the stuff into the atmosphere is having detrimental effects, now they apparently think it is okay to let it bleed into the ocean without any known end. Though these people certainly cannot be reasoned with, rants like yours have immense value to those of us who have our eyes and hearts still open and have not gone numb for the sake of the almighty dollar.

  9. Megan

    This is awesome. YOU GO CARL!! I would love to hear Palin’s response to this, and I look forward to reading your future posts!

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