The lead story of the November 20 USA Today, “Drilling Closes In on Alaska Wildlife Refuge,” was supposed to give readers the basics surrounding proposed legislation to allow oil drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. The article is intended as an explainer—“Here’s What You Should Know,” its online headline concludes—but one idea is conspicuously absent from its explanation: climate change.
Sales of drilling rights in the northeastern Alaskan coastal plain are slated to be attached to the Senate version of the tax bill, ostensibly as a way to raise revenue to offset the cost of massive tax cuts. The article’s lead frames the issue in terms of proponents’ view of the refuge “as an area rich with natural resources that could help fuel the United States’ drive for energy independence”—despite the fact that the United States became a net exporter of oil in 2013, and any increase in oil production would likely go to overseas markets.
After many paragraphs of wrangling over how much oil is likely to lie under the refuge, and how much money the US government would be likely to make from it, reporter Michael Collins includes a single sentence on the environmental impact of opening the wilderness area to oil extraction:
What’s more, opponents argue, drilling is a risky endeavor that would cause widespread and permanent damage to the coastal plain, destroy the area’s natural beauty and jeopardize its wildlife and ecosystems.
But nowhere does the article mention the biggest environmental danger posed by opening the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to oil drilling: If the billions of gallons of petroleum believed to be under the refuge are pumped out and burned, they will add gigatons of carbon to the atmosphere, contributing to the ongoing climate catastrophe.
Nowhere in the article do the words “climate,” “warming,” “greenhouse” or “carbon” appear. Here’s what USA Today should know: This kind of coverage of energy issues is wrecking the planet.
Please tell USA Today to mention climate change prominently when writing about energy issues.
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Justin Anderson contributed to this Action Alert.