ANWR Protest: 'Don't Drill, Storm Capitol Hill'

By Susan Jones | July 7, 2008 | 8:22pm EDT

( - People in polar bear suits will be among those gathering in Washington on Tuesday to protest the Bush administration's plan to drill for oil in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.

Congress is about to vote on a bill that might open the Alaskan refuge to oil drilling, and the Tuesday's protest, organized by a coalition of environmental groups, is aimed at pressuring lawmakers to oppose the plan.

Robert Kennedy, Jr., is one of the featured speakers at the event, which will take place outside the U.S. Capitol.

A press release said "busloads of citizen lobbyists from across the U.S. and Canada" plan to join the protest, which will include a drum procession by Native Americans and "large crowds of citizens with signs."

After years of controversy, the U.S. government is as close as it's ever come to drilling for oil in a small section of the Arctic wilderness.

In what opponents call a sneaky move, Senate Republicans included an ANWR drilling provision in the Senate's fiscal 2006 budget resolution, because budget bills cannot be filibustered.

The House version of the budget bill does not include ANWR drilling language, however, which means the ANWR drilling language will have to be included in the final budget reconciliation, which Congress must vote on in the next few weeks.

An article posted on the National Wildlife Federation's home page says the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge "is not a flat, white nothingness."

"Imagine a land so remote that few have ever visited it except the indigenous peoples," the article says, then goes on to describe ANWR as the "crown jewel" of the Arctic.

Critics of ANWR oil drilling say the pipelines and other oil drilling apparatus will have a negative impact on wildlife in the area, but supporters, including the Bush administration, insist that ANWR exploration is a key step toward greater U.S. energy independence, and they say new technology makes it possible to develop energy sources with minimal environmental impact.

Arguments rage about how much oil ANWR would produce and the amount of time it would take to bring the oil to market and whether conservation measures would better reduce America's dependence on foreign oil.

But the recent spike in gasoline prices makes the argument more relevant to ordinary Americans.

While the arguments against ANWR drilling will be laid out at Tuesday's protest in Washington, a grassroots business/citizens' group called Arctic Power is offering ten reasons why ANWR drilling is a good idea.

Arctic Power notes that only a relatively small portion of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge will be affected by oil exploration, while 92 percent of it will remain off-limits to any kind of development.

The lobbying group also outlines various economic benefits, including new jobs, that would flow from the opening of ANWR.

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