With Oil Derrick Looming, Texans Make the Case to Keep Arctic Refuge, Padre Island Free from Real Drilling

AUSTIN—Standing in front of a model 20-foot high oil derrick set up at the shores of Town Lake in Austin today, members of the Texas Public Interest Research Group (TexPIRG) spoke out in opposition to oil and gas drilling in the coastal plain of the Arctic Refuge and defeat the Bush administration’s energy bill—provisions that are likely to set a precedent for drilling in public lands across America—including Padre Island National Seashore. 

“There is no better symbol of the Bush Administration energy plan than an ugly and polluting oil derrick. Instead of promoting energy efficiency and clean sources energy, the Bush Administration is proposing destroying a pristine wilderness and paving the way for drilling here in our backyard,” said Bill Blome, TexPIRG Field Organizer. “Today we call on residents of Austin to join us and a majority of Americans and not with ExxonMobil and to oppose drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge and the other dangerous elements of the Bush energy plan. And we ask all opponents of drilling to call on their elected officials to protect the Arctic. ” 

House Majority Leader Tom DeLay has called drilling in the Arctic Refuge a “precedent” that would pave the way for drilling in public lands across America, including more drilling at Padre Island National Seashore. BNP Petroleum has already begun drilling on Padre and as many as 20 oil wells could be drilled in the next few decades.

The coastal plain of the Arctic Refuge is one of America’s last wild places and the only part of Alaska’s North Slope that is currently off-limits to drilling. The area supports a wide array of wildlife, including caribou, polar bears, musk oxen, and more than 200 species of migratory birds. 

Drilling in the Arctic Refuge is just one part of the Bush energy plan. The Bush plan contains billions in subsidies for the oil, coal and nuclear industries, and weakens consumer, environmental and public health protections. The Bush plan, as passed in the House and currently moving through the Senate, short-changes clean renewable energy, fails to reduce America's dependence on oil, and does nothing to address global warming pollution.

“Drilling in the Arctic Refuge, one of America’s last wild places, is no substitute for an energy policy. At best there is less than a year’s worth of oil there, and it would do nothing to affect gas prices” said Blome. “Instead of introducing an energy bill that promotes energy efficiency and renewable energy, the Bush Administration has proposed a “No Oil Lobbyist Left Behind” plan.” 

In addition to opposing drilling, TexPIRG called on the public and our elected officials to support a clean energy future that includes a Clean Energy Standard requiring that utilities get at least 10 percent of their electricity from clean, affordable energy sources like wind and solar power, and to raise fuel efficiency to 40 miles per gallon—a move that would save more oil than America gets from the Persian Gulf and would get from the Arctic Refuge—combined. It would also save American drivers between $3500 - $5500 in gas costs over the life of a car.

“Texans are clear what side they’re on—we want a clean, affordable energy future where we improve our efficiency, lower gas costs, create jobs and get our power from clean energy sources like wind and solar power,” Blome said. “By supporting increases in automobile fuel efficiency to 40 miles per gallon and a clean energy standard, Congress can make sure we save on gas and free America from reliance on the kind of polluting energy like oil and coal that kill more than 30,000 Americans every year.”