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Martin Sheen Opposes Drilling in ANWR
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Original content from the archives of The Defenders of Wildlife.


Dear Fellow American,

I try to promote causes that I believe help to make America the greatest country in the world. Among these are important environmental causes, for I believe that one of our major responsibilities is to protect America's environmental values for future generations.

The challenges to our environment are never ending, and so we must remain vigilant. Right now, for example, the U.S. Senate is preparing to vote on major legislation that will determine our energy future. We all must hope that the plan will be one that calls for a sane, balanced energy policy that reduces our country's dependence on oil and other fossil fuels in favor of alternative and renewable energy sources and improved energy efficiency. We do not need to immediately stop drilling for oil, and no one is calling for that. But we do need to begin seriously reducing our dependence upon it, something that makes us vulnerable to foreign oil-producing countries and has a devastating effect on our environment by fouling our air, land and water and worsening global warming.

Perhaps worst of all, when senators vote on this energy bill, they will be confronted with an amendment by some who want to give permission to Big Oil to drill in our finest remaining wildlife sanctuary, the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. For 21 years, the conservation community has fought successfully to fend off one attempt after another to drill in this place so often called "America's Serengetti." To this point we've won every fight. But environmentalists MUST win every fight, for the opposition only has to win ONCE and we could forever lose this incomparable ecosystem that is home to hundreds of bird species, polar bears, muskoxen, grizzlies, wolves, caribou, and more. Sadly, drilling proponents believe this upcoming Senate vote will be that one time.

The reason is that oil drilling supporters are using the current national fight against terrorism to justify violating the pristine Arctic refuge. But this is foolish. Of course we need to enhance our energy security, and of course we should include in our plan a rational continued use of oil and other fossil fuels. But a BALANCED energy plan would recognize that true energy security can only come from significantly reducing our dependence upon fossil fuels, and thus would use oil, natural gas and coal to purposefully help us bridge to greater use of renewable and alternative energy sources, while providing incentives to improve overall energy efficiency. Drilling for oil in the refuge, when it cant reach market for probably 10 years, is definitely not a plan to help us promote energy security. It is a plan whose overriding purpose is not to help this country but rather to maximize industry profits.

Our move in a more sane energy direction is possible right now with existing technology that can improve energy efficiency (e.g. by raising fuel economy standards in our cars and SUVs), tap into neglected reserves of oil and natural gas in areas that are not vulnerable to serious environmental degradation, and expand our use of solar and wind power and other energy sources. This kind of rational plan can save consumers money, protect our environment and reduce our vulnerability to foreign manipulation of oil supply and prices.

Poll after poll shows that this is what the majority of Americans want. Only the strong political voices of the fossil fuel industry and its allies stop us from moving in that direction.

We can overcome those voices with our own voices if we choose to speak as one and to do so right now. I am frequently inspired by the small yet profound contributions our citizens make in building our great country, and I want to urge my fellow citizens to help shape our energy future in a manner that both ensures a vital and secure economy and protects our proud environmental heritage.

The key to passing a good energy bill in the U.S. Senate is to defeat Big Oil's amendment that would approve drilling in the Arctic refuge. This is not just because the refuge by itself is so important, but because that is the place where our supporters in the Senate have drawn a line in the sand. If we win that key vote, the chances are the balance of the bill will go our way too. But if we lose...

Groups like Defenders of Wildlife, which has fought so long and hard to protect the refuge, need our help now more than ever. And you can help. It's easy. All you need to do is to send a message to your two senators stating that you want an energy plan that both provides enhanced energy security and protects the environment for our children and their children. Just click here (link deleted) and let your voice be heard, and then forward this message to those you know who should also help at this critical time.

The voices of the special interests are loud and omnipresent. But ours is a strong political democracy where the will of the majority still is the most important factor in determining U.S. policy. You can help make democracy work and at the same time contribute to protecting America's environmental values for future generations. Please take a moment right now to participate in this important democratic process. Thank you.

Martin Sheen

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