I was pleased to see your story, “Gulf disaster renews debate over Arctic spill” (newstribune.com, 4-22) finally address the very real problems and risks of drilling in the Arctic. Despite oil industry claims, the risk of a major spill in the Arctic is no less than it was in the Gulf of Mexico, though a cleanup would prove to be substantially more difficult, if not impossible.
Already the Arctic is paying the price of our fossil fuel habit. North Alaska is warming at twice the rate of the lower 48. The people of the North Slope are seeing the loss of sea ice, changes in animal behavior and the loss of important subsistence opportunities. To see the impacts of oil development they need only look at Prudhoe Bay, where decades-old diesel spill sites still show little regrowth, or Prince William Sound, where oil remains on the beaches 22 years after the Exxon Valdez spill.
The Arctic is one of the wildest spots left on the globe, home to millions of birds, walrus and polar bears. I’ve been lucky enough to spend time in Alaska, and my hope is that it will still be vibrant and alive when I return.
We must move America as quickly as possible to a clean energy economy. Instead of drilling in the Arctic Ocean or Gulf of Mexico we need to embrace 21st-century energy solutions that make our cars cleaner and more efficient and expand our transportation choices.
(Ritzman is the Alaska program director or the Sierra Club’s Resilient Habitats Campaign.)