When I listened to Bush’s recent State Of The Union speech decrying America’s addiction to foreign oil, it made me hesitate for a moment—“Hey, he’s finally onto something!” But then I realized 2 key words—“FOREIGN OIL”. While Bush wants us off oil from “unstable parts of the world”, here in our own backyard big oil and coal are plundering local communities and eco-systems from Alaska’s Tongass to rural Appalachia. Supporting this work are banks, like top oil and gas (O&G) financier Wells Fargo, that finance the destruction.
In the summer of 2000, I spent a month traveling through the interior west states hiking and camping in some of the most gorgeous pristine landscape I have ever seen. Since then, Bush and co. has opened up 229 million acres of public and private wilderness for oil and gas development. The area opened up for drilling is roughly the equivalent of the states of Colorado, Arizona and New Mexico; ironically it has yielded very little oil. Regardless, O&G companies are still tearing up the American West looking for their black gold (funded by banks like Wells Fargo). Furthermore, the Environmental Working Group has reported
“America will never drill itself out of our reliance on foreign oil. Despoiled landscapes, poisoned groundwater, and the destabilization of rural communities are the toxic by-products that all too often follow behind the drilling rigs.”
My friends in coal country tell me even worse stories. The Bush administration has created a web of massive tax breaks and incentives to build 100 new coal fired plants around the country. Greedy coal companies, like Massey Energy, engage in coal extraction that ruins mountaintops, streams and forests to feed the power plants. Massey also has a brutal anti-union history and little regard for local communities. To top it off, Wells Fargo is a top funder of both the new power plants and Massey Energy. Just so you know, coal is the most polluting fossil fuel when burned–creating acid rain, sooty skies and carbon emissions worse than oil or gas.
So even though, they aren’t finding much domestic oil, the reliance on oil from “unstable” regions has yet to fade and coal country suffers human and ecological tolls from extraction. Does Bush take steps to protect American wilderness and average people from O&G and big coal? No, he continues to fund the future with dirty energy. Does he take reasonable steps toward renewable clean energy? Not yet. Is he sincere in getting the US un-entangled from foreign oil? The jury is still out, but his friends at Exxonmobil and Halliburton are swimming in profits from foreign oil.
My friends and I here at Rainforest Action Network are working on getting the word out to Wells Fargo’s in late April at their annual shareholders meeting here in San Francisco. If you want to get involved check out www.dirtymoney.org.