Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Polar Bears Casulties of Our Oil Addiction?

Is the Bush Administration willing to sacrifice Polar Bears to continue to feed our oil addiction? That's the contention of this article in Salon (see excerpt below)

By 2050, two-thirds of the world's polar bears will have vanished, as a result of global warming melting their icy habitat, according to scientists at the U.S. Geological Survey. There may no longer be any polar bears at all living in Alaska, their only home in the United States. Still, this stark prediction, revealed in September 2007, after a yearlong review of the impact of melting sea ice on the Alaskan bears, hasn't inspired the Bush administration to list the bear as even a threatened species, much less an endangered one, under the Endangered Species Act.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, responsible for listing mammals as threatened or endangered, has been one of the most politically compromised scientific divisions in the Bush administration. It didn't consider extending federal protections to polar bears until it was petitioned, and subsequently sued, to do so by a coalition of environmental groups back in 2005. Now it admits that polar bears are "likely to become endangered in the foreseeable future," and
explained recent delays by citing the complexity of the decision: It has never before had to designate a species as threatened because of global warming.
But critics say that Fish and Wildlife hasn't made a ruling yet because another agency within the Department of Interior, the Minerals Management Service, is on the verge of handing out oil and gas leases in vast swaths of the polar bears' remaining habitat. The Endangered Species Act prevents the federal government from taking actions that harm protected species. "At the same time the administration is illegally delaying a decision on the polar bear listing, it is also racing to sell some of the polar bear's most important habitat in the Chukchi Sea for oil and gas development," said Andrew Wetzler, director of the Endangered Species Project at the Natural Resources Defense Council.
On Thursday, the House Select Committee on Energy Independence and Global Warming will hold a
hearing on the polar bear listing and controversial oil leases. Rep. Edward J. Markey, D-Mass., who chairs the committee, said in a statement: "The Bush administration is once again putting the oil cart before the polar bear. On the one hand, the Interior Department is dragging its feet on protecting the polar bear, while opening up new oil and gas drilling in sensitive polar bear habitats on the other."
Details of the oil development were
announced earlier this month. The Minerals Management Service plans to lease 30 million acres for oil and gas drilling in the Chukchi Sea, where about one-fifth of the world's remaining polar bears live. The lease sale will take place on Feb. 6, which could allow it to go through before any plans to protect the polar bears get in the way. "Short of sending Dick Cheney to Alaska to personally club baby polar bears to death, there's not too much that the administration can do that is worse for polar bears than oil and gas development in their habitat," says Kassie Siegel, director of the climate, air and energy program for the Center for Biological Diversity.

Interfaith Power and Light is a religious response to global warming with chapters in 25 states and Greater Washington, D.C. Find a link to your local chapter at

Find discounts on energy saving products at

No comments: