Dear Mr. President:
I've often been struck by your soaring rhetoric on combating climate change, transitioning to clean energy sources, and protecting the natural environment. Clearly on some level you get it, as you've demonstrated in speech after speech. That's why I don't understand how you could even consider approving Shell's dangerous plan to drill for oil in the Arctic Ocean this summer - and why I'm imploring you to stop this reckless and short-sighted project.
"There's one issue that will define the contours of this century more dramatically than any other, and that is the urgent and growing threat of a changing climate," you told the United Nations Climate Change Summit just last year, pledging to work through all political obstacles. "Yes, this is hard. But there should be no question that the United States of America is stepping up to the plate. We recognize our role in creating this problem; we embrace our responsibility to combat it. We will do our part, and we will help developing nations do theirs."
You were right: This is an urgent and growing problem, one that American industry and consumers have disproportionately created, and one that will require your courageous leadership to address in a meaningful way. How is that consistent with allowing Royal Dutch Shell to drill into the world's largest untapped oil reserves under the harshest and most unforgiving conditions on the planet?
Please, help me to understand your logic, because I'd like to believe your clean energy speeches aren't just empty political posturing.
Climate scientists say that we need to leave Arctic oil reserves in the ground if we want to avoid the worst global warming scenarios. Federal agencies recently concluded 2014 was the hottest year on record due to atmospheric carbon dioxide emissions that are now pushing 400 parts per million, well beyond the 350 ppm ceiling for avoiding calamitous consequences.
Rather than pumping the brakes to slow global warming, you're about to step on the gas.
It's bad enough that you'd fuel global warming with Arctic oil, but you're also taking huge risks with this wild landscape in the north. The icy, treacherous seas around Alaska are a brutal environment, one that already destroyed a Shell drilling rig in 2012 and tore a hole in its icebreaker last week. Your own Department of the Interior concluded there's a 75 percent chance of a large oil spill if you drill here - and that such a spill would be impossible to clean up. Imagine the recent Santa Barbara oil spill without any wildlife rescues or coastal cleanup, because that's what we're talking about in the Arctic.
So I'm struggling to understand how Shell's Arctic drilling could have any chance of winning your approval. You talk about transitioning to clean energy sources, but tapping into Arctic oil reserves would open a spigot that would be politically difficult for you or future presidents to turn off, even as it fouls those pristine waters and cooks the planet. It's up to you to stop this now, before it's too late to avoid disaster.
You've read the reports and you know what's at stake. As you said, it's up to us to do our part and help developing nations do theirs -- rather than encouraging them to follow our lead and exploit every last fossil fuel reserve, even those dangerous to access.
I've listened to your words, now I'm waiting for you to back them with your deeds.
Please, Mr. President, join us in saying "Shell no!" to Arctic oil drilling.
Photo: Shell Drilling Rig Kulluk Grounding off Alaska, U.S. Coast Guard