Top Spy Says Why Arctic is not Worth the Try

The hawkish former CIA Director James Woolsey may not fit the mold of your stereotypical environmentalist. But he’s come out against Arctic drilling, arguing as other national security advocates have, that it would only exacerbate our dependence on a resource that we, in the U.S., have precious too little of.

Woolsey favors far greater investments in renewable energy and alternative fuels as a way to lessen our dependence on the OPEC cartel. He’s also made a point that has largely been absent from the public debate and that is, in the wake of 9/11, it would be unwise to become even more dependent on the Trans-Alaska Pipeline, which winds and weaves for 800 miles, through largely remote and unpopulated terrain, before arriving at the Port of Valdez in Prince William Sound. To be sure, even the Pentagon has acknowledged that the pipeline is largely indefensible. As perhaps evidence of this, a mentally disturbed drunken Alaska resident named Daniel Carson Lewis used his .338 caliber rifle to shoot a hole in the structure that caused more than 285.000 gallons of oil to spill and forcing the pipeline to be shutdown for several days in 2001. I’d hate to think what an actual terrorist could do.

Of course U.S. oil infrastructure is not just vulnerable to terrorists. Hurricane Katrina has brought oil operations in much of the Gulf of Mexico to a halt, causing further spikes in already crushing fuel prices. The Alaska pipeline, which crosses several major fault lines, could similarly fall victim to a major earthquake.

Woolsey argues that renewable energy sources like solar and wind and agri-based alternative fuels are easier to defend, less vulnerable to natural disasters and of course better for the environment. That’s not to say Alaska oil hasn’t made a vital contribution to our nation’s energy needs. But allowing drilling the Arctic Refuge – as Dr. Amory Lovins from the Rocky Mountain Institute suggests – would be “a fool’s errand,” that would only exacerbate our dependence on oil, and as a result, make us more vulnerable to not only the OPEC cartel but potential acts of terrorism and natural disasters.