Sunday, December 03, 2006

Salmon Rivers

- Bush Threatens World's Greatest

According to a recent CNN article, "Drilling may resume in Alaska Bay", U.S. President Bush is deciding whether to lift a ban on oil and gas drilling in federal waters off Alaska's Bristol Bay, home to endangered whales and sea lions and the world's largest sockeye salmon run.

Leasing in a portion of the area rich in oil and natural gas ended nearly two decades ago -- while Bush's father was president -- in the outcry after the Exxon Valdez oil spill in 1989."

Essentially Bush has allowed big oil to set policy -- what big oil has wants, big oil gets. And it now wants to drill off shore in Alaska, where it is estimated there are only 40 million barrels of economically recoverable oil (assuming $30 per barrel). This is enough to supply the U.S. for a little over two days at the current rate of oil consumption. There's 1.27 trillion cubic feet of estimated economically recoverable (assuming $3.52 per million cubic feet). This is enough to supply the U.S. for only 20 days at the current rate of gas consumption.

On the other hand, the Bristol Bay Watershed produces the world’s greatest commercial salmon fishery and internationally renowned salmon and trout runs that attract anglers from all over the world. The waters in this region have long been an integral part of the State’s economy and have provided sustainable jobs, subsistence foods and other benefits to Alaskans for generations. Alaska's Bristol Bay supplies 50 percent of US seafood.

Recently, however, adult sockeye runs in Bristol Bay have declined dramatically, even though counts of both juvenile fish leaving the rivers for the ocean, and adults returning to the rivers to spawn, have indicated strong sockeye salmon production in the freshwater tributaries to the Bay. The last thing this sensitive ecosystem needs is another oil spill.

Even President Bush's brother, Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, who recognizes that Florida's coastline is of major concern to Florida voters, has been fighting for restrictions on oil drilling in the Gulf for at least 150 miles off the Florida coast.

If Bush and Congress allow drilling in Bristol Bay, it illustrates how deep they are in the pocket of Big Oil. Exxon-Mobil (Esso) ($2.470.000) and Texaco-Chevron ($2.200.000) are some of the biggest donors to the Republican Party coffers.

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