GOP presidential hopeful Herman Cain wants to achieve energy independence in the U.S. He believes that to do so, we should tap into the oil reserves of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, according to the Fiscal Times. The same refuge that provides a home to countless species of wildlife, some of which are endangered. The same refuge that has trouble enough due to climate change, which is currently putting walruses at risk.
And, as someone who has witnessed firsthand the aftereffects of an oil spill, I believe we cannot simply cross our fingers and hope the drilling process goes smoothly. If something went wrong, it would destroy one of the most majestic ecosystems we have.
I took a trip out to the city of New Orleans this year, where, for the second time, I observed the damage done to close-knit communities on the bayou by the BP oil spill. The aftermath of the disaster has left working class people reeling, and trying to pick up the pieces - to say nothing of the unfathomable harm done to wildlife there.
The GOP's pro-oil 'Drill, Baby, Drill' campaign had quickly turned into 'Spill, Baby, Spill,' and both decent people and the environment paid the price for corporate greed.
Now, Cain has a campaign of his own: he calls it 'Drill Here, Drill Now.' Saying nothing of the potential harm his pursuits could inflict, he comments, "The area could yield billions and billions of barrels of recoverable oil. It's as if the answer to energy independence is close at hand, but excessive regulations and environmental extremists who influence timid legislators are holding America hostage to foreign oil."
Really? I hardly consider it extremism to be concerned for environmental safety, and remember vividly the images of oil-soaked pelicans, only some of which were lucky enough to survive. How long before 'Drill Here, Drill Now' leads to oil-soaked animals on the tundra?
Cain's decision to support drilling into the sensitive Arctic tundra is not only careless - it is ignorant. In keeping with that consistency, Cain also noted, in his book "This is Herman Cain! My Journey to the White House" that he believes solar and wind energy, as well as other green alternatives, have little to no potential.
"Even the Department of Energy's 'Billion Dollar Study' shows that [solar and wind energy] combined could at best provide only five percent of our total energy needs," Cain stated in a report by Politifact.
The Billion Dollar Study is a 2005 report by the U.S. Department of Energy, and focuses on biological material that can be used to create energy. It does not say what Cain claimed it did; rather, it mentions solar and wind energy in passing, and instead explores the possibility of replacing 30 percent or more of petroleum use in the U.S. with green materials.
Daniel Matisoff, who studied environmental policy at Virginia Tech, believed that we could be looking at not five, but 10 percent of our energy needs taken care of by solar and wind energy in the near future. "It's not just possible," Matisoff said. "It's likely."
Scientists also believe, said the report, that solar and wind energy can support many of the country's needs with the right policy and infrastructure changes.
My general feeling on Cain is that he doesn't believe America will ever be able to begin relying on green energy for sustainability. Funny then, how it is being implemented with a level of success in other countries.
However, getting back to the current problem at hand, I believe that we need to prevent, at all cost, a repeat of the BP oil spill. If the Right Wing and big business do not care about the wellbeing of this ecosystem, the working class has to act.
According to the Wilderness Society, "What's at stake is America's last great frontier, a vast land of wild tundra plains and epic migrations of caribou herds. From the boreal forests of the Porcupine River uplands to the slopes of the Brooks Range and the arctic tundra of the coastal plain, the Arctic Refuge contains a variety of landscapes that have sustained Gwich'in Native communities for thousands of years. This sanctuary also is vital to polar bears, musk oxen, caribou, fish and migratory birds. It is the crown jewel of the National Refuge System."
So at a time when I have personally experienced environment-destroying atrocities, and in the midst of climate change, when the fragile Arctic refuge is so vulnerable, I believe that Herman Cain should not be allowed to add to the damage already done by oil drilling.