More than a dozen students from GW’s Free the Planet demonstrated at Upper Senate Park Wednesday to urge senators to protect the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge from drilling.
A bill that would authorize oil drilling in a section of ANWR passed the House in August and is up for Senate vote this week.
Four senators and religious, environmental and labor leaders spoke at the hour-long protest, while posters with slogans like “Save ANWR From The Evil-Doers” bobbed above a crowd of 200 protesters.
Opponents of drilling in ANWR argue that oil development would destroy the natural habitat of wildlife and tribes inhabiting ANWR. But with rising tensions in the Middle East, proponents of drilling argue that dependence on foreign oil threatens U.S. national security
Alaskan Sens. Frank Murkowski and Ted Stevens, both Republicans, support drilling in the region.
Amanda Fisher, president of Free the Planet, said the United States should explore cleaner, renewable sources of energy to reduce dependence on foreign oil.
Other speakers at the protest echoed Fisher’s views.
“We can’t help the fact that most of the world’s oil reserves are outside the United States,” Sen. Joe Lieberman (D-Conn.) said at the rally. “But we can help to make that reality irrelevant (by developing) clean, cost-efficient, American ways to power our society.”
Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.) said the benefits of drilling would not be seen for almost a decade because of exploration, drilling and pipeline construction.
Lieberman said that in 20 years drilling in ANWR would only lower American dependence on foreign oil from 62 percent to 60 percent.
Legislation to open ANWR will take the form of an amendment to the Senate’s energy bill.
Lieberman assured protesters that proponents of drilling do not have enough votes in the Senate to prevail and said he would filibuster any motion to allow drilling.
-Bret Nolan Collazzi