The Arctic National Wildlife Refuge is a cluster of protected areas in Alaska described by the National Park Service biologist Lowell Sumner as “one of planet Earth’s own works of art.” It also claims an area with a name so boring only the government could have coined it: The 1002 Area.
This 1.5-million acre space on Alaska’s northern coastal plan is emerald green in the summer and snow-covered in the winter, home to wildlife like brown bears, reindeer, and walruses. It’s also home to mass quantities of heavy crude oil, according to studies by the USGS, and in the small hours of Saturday morning, a Republican tax bill passed in the Senate that also gives authorization to drill that oil in the 1002 Area.
It’s easy to see how pumping heavy crude oil from the Earth, tearing up the surface beyond recognition, then using incredible amounts of energy to break it down for use in cars will be a short-sighted fix for America’s energy problem. The landscape will be rendered unrecognizable from what’s there today, and that’s no exaggeration, as anybody who’s seen what industrialized refining does to the Earth and its wildlife.
For years, Alaskan Republican Senator Lisa Murkowski has tried to industrialize the protected wilderness, and in the very early hours of Saturday morning, she got her wish. The GOP’s tax bill passed the Senate and included in it as authorization for oil and gas drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, or ANWR for short.
Without recognizing the irony, Murkowski said this early Saturday, via a statement posted on her website: “Tonight is a critical milestone in our efforts to secure Alaska’s future.” She’s talking about the number of jobs the project will create, when she mentions the state’s “future,” but long-term, one wonder how’s the state will clean up the mess once the demand for oil runs out as renewable energy resources — solar, wind, and the batteries that come with it — become cheaper and economically smarter options.
Dan Sullivan, the junior Senator from Alaska, and also a Republican, curiously used the word “environment” in his statement: “It will also help protect the global environment by producing energy at home using the most stringent of environmental standards, and will help strengthen our national security and foreign policy.”
The 1002 Area has for years been a coveted symbol of economic opportunity for oil corporations and politicians focused on money instead of the state’s beauty that attracted their families to move there in the first place. This history wasn’t lost on Sullivan, who also said this about turning the 1002 Area in a work zone: “Today’s historic vote is yet another milestone in bringing us that much closer to realizing a decades-long dream of opening the 1002 area of ANWR.”
The Senate’s tax bill is 479 pages long and isn’t searchable, because this is the government we’re talking about. Also, the bill was full of additions written in the margins. This tweet from Montana Senator Jon Tester went viral on Friday night as he showed that the massive bill with scribbles all over it. “This is unbelievable, we’re doing massive tax reform on absolute incredible timeline, this is going to effect everybody in this country, it’s going to shift money from middle-class families to the rich. It’s amazing, and we’ve been given this 25 minutes ago, and we’re supposed to vote on in a couple hours.”
The vote on the $1.5 trillion tax bill was 51 to 49, with Republican Tennessee Senator Bob Corker as the only Republican who didn’t vote for it. No Democrats voted for it. The Washington Post reports that the bill “still has to be reconciled with an earlier House-passed version before being sent to President Trump. Yet in getting the bill through the Senate, Republicans succeeded where they failed earlier this year, when their efforts to repeal the Affordable Care Act collapsed in mortifying fashion.
President Trump celebrated one of his few major accomplishments during a first year of his administration that’s been met with failed initiatives and bizarre attacks on celebrities. Tweeted Trump on Saturday morning: “More Biggest Tax Bill and Tax Cuts in history just passed in the Senate. Now these great Republicans will be going for final passage. Thank you to House and Senate Republicans for your hard work and commitment!”