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Global Warming and Energy: The Focus on Alaska

Two news reports today seemed juxtaposed in a sort of sad irony, both focusing on Alaska.

At a news conference this morning from House GOP members complaining they wanted Democrats to present an “energy bill with energy in it”, complaining that things like liquid coal and oil shale are “off the table” and once again stating their intention to continue pursuit of drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR). Others editorialize that if we had begun the process of developing ANWR for oil extraction a decade ago we’d have that oil now when we need it, as a barrel of oil edges towards $100.

I am no expert, but I suspect that the pricing of oil is a very complex process that involved geopolitical considerations that are rarely, if ever, presented to the general public in a straightforward way. Even if oil piped out of ANWR significantly effected the price or our dependence on foreign it would be short-lived solution. Energy independence will, in the long run, will also mean independence from oil. At some point long-term solutions need to be considered, lest long-term consequences suddenly appear on our doorstep.

Enter global warming.

This is where it gets ironic, sadly. As Charlee Lockwood, the young Yupik Eskimo from a small village in Alaska, told a U.S. House Committee on Global Warming recently, global warming has arrived with a vengeance.

The feedback loop set loose in the far north gets even larger with the thirst for oil, what even president Bush calls an addiction to oil, setting our sights on another pristine Alaskan wilderness so that we might burn every last available drop, gassing most of it into the atmosphere, helping devastate another community, another ecosystem, another species.

An addict thinks of getting just one more hit, a little more will do the trick. And maybe he’s actually right. The craving need is satisfied; but only for awhile. Then the addict starts looking for another hit.

The cycle only breaks when a real, long-term solution is pursued, even if it means a painful trial when finally forsaking what has fueled the addiction all along.

I am not so naive as to think we can forsake oil entirely or even that soon. We are entrenched in a fossil fuel energy economy. But we must start somewhere, and I remain committed to ANWR being that line that is not crossed. The point at which we decide on another future.

The consequences of continuing to fuel the addiction is a twisted, ironic tale now being told in Alaska.

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