Begich: As The Arctic Melts, Let’s Drill, Baby, Drill

Yesterday, Sen. Mark Begich (D-AK) said that the rapid warming of the Arctic because of oil pollution means that more Arctic drilling should commence. Begich was responding to the presidential oil spill commission’s report, which recommended new drilling around Alaska, subject to stronger standards. The Democratic senator from the state most changed by global warming pollution used the commission’s report to emphasize his desire for more “Arctic development”:

As many of us have been saying for years, more resources and research are needed for Arctic development as warming temperatures make far north resources more accessible.

“Producing the enormous energy resources available within our borders is vital for our economic and national security, but we must develop these resources in a safe and environmentally responsible manner,” Begich continued.

Like the rest of the nation, the future of Alaska is already unsafe because of global warming, as Begich himself has explained. “We are feeling its near-term effects far more than the residents of any other state,” wrote Begich in a March 2010 letter, “including retreating sea ice, rapidly eroding shorelines, thawing permafrost, ocean acidification, and changing fish and wildlife migration patterns.” Since then, the world has continued to rapidly heat up, making 2010 the warmest year on record. National security experts are worried about global warming pollution’s impact on everything from spread of disease to displaced people.

The now-melting Arctic permafrost contains over 1.5 trillion tons of frozen carbon, about twice as much carbon as now contained in the atmosphere. The warming Arctic Ocean similarly contains vast reserves of methane. If the thaw continues and creates a feedback loop of Arctic greenhouse emissions, unimaginable global catastrophe will ensue. Apparently without irony, Begich proposes to accelerate that process by further extracting fossil fuels that are buried below the ocean floor, in the name of “economic and national security.”

The Wonk Room contacted Begich’s office to ascertain what the senator believes is a “safe and environmentally responsible manner” to extract fossil fuels made available by global warming, but has not yet received a response.