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Produced & Maintained by Idaho Mountain Express, Box 1013, Ketchum, ID 83340-1013 
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Copyright © 2001 Express Publishing Inc. 
All Rights reserved. Reproduction in whole or in part in any form or medium without express written permission of Express Publishing Inc. is prohibited. 


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For the week of June 6 - June 12, 2001

  Opinion Column

Drilling in the 
dead of winter

Commentary by DICK DORWORTH

The key people who should be the country’s leading "environmental team"— … Norton, … Whitman, and …Abraham— are warriors for corporate polluters of the very environment they are charged with protecting.

Some California homeowners recently objected to their neighbors hanging clothes out to dry in the California sun. In the objectors view, the socially acceptable method of drying clothes is out of sight in electric clothes dryers. The wayward neighbors thought it is both less expensive and a conservation measure to dry clothes on a line in the sun and air instead of by electricity. As everyone knows, California has had a series of rolling electrical blackouts that has increased the price of electricity and left people without power at times. Under the circumstances, which are quickly escalating in California and expanding into other states, it would seem reasonable, economical, environmentally sound, socially responsible, morally uplifting and just plain intelligent to use the natural, free powers of the sun and air to dry clothes. When electrical power is expensive and in short supply, it is only sensible to use it when absolutely necessary. To use an oft used phrase, it is a "no brainer."

But the objecting homeowners thought it didn’t look right. A line of clothes blowing in the wind on the adjoining property made them uncomfortable enough to make a fuss. People who might be expected to support private property rights, individual freedoms, sound economics and clean clothes thought consumption, not conservation, looks right.

Such superficiality deserves whatever derision comes its way. The deeper and more significant irresponsibility that such shallowness creates is, to give a different meaning to that same oft used phrase, a "no brainer."

Clothes drying in the back yard might suggest that the inhabitants do not have the means to purchase a dryer and provide it with the uninterrupted power to do its job. That, of course, is exactly the situation in California, a state with a deserved reputation as being ahead of the rest of the nation in both socially acceptable and frowned upon trends. What doesn’t look right to some in California reflects reality for all in the Sunshine State. And that reality is in the process of spreading. Some call it a crisis, though, according to the Governor of California, there is more than some evidence that the crisis in California has been created artificially by power (sic) brokers in, of all places, Texas. Whether created by the limits of nature or the greed of man, the crisis is reality for the user of power. In the larger and longer term view, the ultimate reality of power is that demand is growing and sources are finite and shrinking. Conservation in the form of drying clothes in the sun is one rational response to this reality.

That it is offensive to some citizens is a revealing comment on our times, as is the presidency of George Bush. The two are not disconnected. Conservation of natural, finite resources and the environmental protection of the earth have never in history been more vulnerable than they are right now, in large measure because of the President, his agenda and the agenda of the power industries that backed his candidacy and will profit from his Presidency. It is no coincidence that less than three months after Bush took office, the energy crisis in California began.

The key people who should be the country’s leading "environmental team"— Secretary of Interior Gale Norton, Environmental Protection Agency head Christine Todd Whitman, and Energy Secretary Spencer Abraham— are warriors for corporate polluters of the very environment they are charged with protecting. Brock Evans, Executive Director of the Endangered Species Coalition, says of Norton, "This is the scariest nomination…I have witnessed in 20 years. The implications for just about every place, every value, every resource protection that Americans have fought for over two decades are frightening."

A spokesman for Friends of the Earth said the Bush administration is "…a nightmare. By choosing people like Gale Norton, Bush is calling for a war on the environment."

And so he is.

Norton exemplifies this war. She has claimed that corporations have a "right to pollute," and during her tenure as Colorado’s attorney general in the 1990s, she cut the state’s environmental budget by a third and argued that the Endangered Species Act is unconstitutional. She is no friend to the environment, but she is a loyal Bush warrior in the war against it.

Norton and the Bush administration are using the California power crisis as rationale for drilling for oil in the pristine 1.5-million-acre Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR) in Alaska, despite the reality that ANWR oil couldn’t start flowing until 2007, and natural gas, not oil, powers most California electric plants, a Reagan Administration report projected only a one-in-five chance of discovering economically viable oil there, and the U.S. Geological Survey has concluded that at best there is only a six months supply of oil there at current consumption rates. Drilling in ANWAR will benefit oil companies and be a disaster for the natural world of the arctic. Norton has claimed that drilling in ANWAR can be done in "and environmentally responsible way" by drilling only in "the dead of winter."

Norton’s environmentally dirty and irresponsible nonsense should be thoroughly washed with facts and then hung out to dry in the sunshine of public scrutiny. No doubt she would find such dirty laundry cleansed wouldn’t look right, but it would conserve a lot of energy and preserve for posterity what many call "America’s Serengeti."


The Idaho Mountain Express is distributed free to residents and guests throughout the Sun Valley, Idaho resort area community. Subscribers to the Idaho Mountain Express will read these stories and others in this week's issue.