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Letter - Presiding Bishop to Congress RE: Arctic Drilling
Dear Members of Congress:

Throughout my nine-year term as Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church proponents of drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge have exploited natural disasters, the terrorist attacks of September 11th, the economy, war in Afghanistan, war in Iraq, the political instability of oil producing nations and the current high cost of gasoline to justify the wrong-headed position that somehow oil found in the Arctic Refuge would miraculously solve our nation’s energy needs.  Nothing could be further from the truth.  Congress has consistently listened to the wise counsel of their constituents and rejected efforts to drill in the Arctic Refuge.  I urge Congress to oppose again renewed legislative efforts to drill in the Arctic.

Experts agree that oil from the Arctic Refuge would negligibly impact our demand for oil from foreign sources, and it would continue to contribute to the environmental degradation resulting from use of fossil fuels. Even were it possible to gain access to every oil deposit in our nation—regardless of the value or beauty of the land above it—the United States simply does not have enough reserves to meet our nation’s ever growing demand for oil. 

There is no question that filling our tanks leaves us with sticker shock.  As Americans feel the cost of high gas prices, Congress must face the plain reality that our nation will never be able to drill our way to either energy independence or lower gas prices at the pump. Nor will we ever be able to control the price of oil price on world markets or here at home.  As China, India and other developing nations increase their own consumption of dwindling supplies of fossil fuels, we as a country must realize that gas prices will continue to rise.

The Episcopal Church has consistently opposed drilling in the Arctic Refuge not only for reasons related to energy policy but because of the threat to the Porcupine Caribou Herd that has been integral to the survival of the Gwich’in for 10,000 years. The coastal plain is the primary birthplace and nursery for the Porcupine Caribou Herd, which the Gwich’in rely upon to meet their essential physical, cultural, social and economic needs.  Even in time of famine, the Gwich’in won’t enter this sacred space to take the caribou on which they depend.  The relationship between the Gwich’in Nation and the Porcupine Caribou is characterized as a “subsistence lifestyle,” which is protected by international law and treaty.  Increasingly the world’s oil companies are responding to consumer and shareholder pressure to avoid development in sensitive places, and Congress should act accordingly.

The United States should lead the world in developing renewable energy resources that grow our economy, not our greenhouse gas emissions. Instead of abusing the legislative process by including revenues from lease sales in the Arctic in the budget, attempting to attach pro-drilling measures as part of appropriations bills or devising complicated legislative strategies and gimmicks to drill in the Arctic Refuge, Congress and the Bush Administration should aggressively pursue the development of clean, reliable alternatives to harmful fossil fuels and reach well beyond the inadequate proposals being put forth at the moment.

No nation in the history of humankind has ever held so much potential to achieve energy independence. If we use existing fuel efficiency technologies and invest in renewable energy resources like hydrogen, wind, ethanol and others, there is hope for the United States to end, as President Bush has called for, our addiction to oil.

Yours Sincerely,


The Most Reverend Frank T. Griswold, III
Presiding Bishop and Primate of the Episcopal Church

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