by Ben Sheffler
Despite protests and opposition from environmentalists and international celebrities like Leonardo DiCaprio and Bo Derek, President Rafael Correa of Ecuador has stopped a plan that would’ve prevented oil drilling in the Yasuni National Park in the Amazonian rainforest. President Barack Obama is due to make a decision about the Keystone XL pipeline soon, and I hope he chooses a different solution than the one that Correa chose last week.
In 2007, Correa said his country wouldn’t drill in the rainforest if $3.6 billion was raised to save it, and the offer was open to the world.
Nearly 4,000 square miles would’ve been protected had the goal been reached, but after gaining support from environmentalists and the United Nations, just $13 million was raised.
During a nationally televised news conference on August 15, Correa said, “The world has failed us.”
“With deep sadness but also with absolute responsibility to our people and history, I have had to make one of the hardest decisions of my government,” he said.
Two indigenous tribes and countless plants and animals make their home in the park, and in 1989 it was declared a biosphere reserve by the U.N.
The nonprofit organization Amazon Watch says that “just 2.5 acres of Yasuni contain more tree species than the U.S. and Canada combined.”
When drilling begins, it is expected that more than 400 million metric tons of carbon dioxide will be released into the atmosphere, affecting climate change.
The dilemma for Correa and the Ecuadorean government is that oil is one-third of its tax revenue, and the country has a large budget deficit.
Oil production in the park is expected to bring in $7 billion over 10 years.
The Yasuni National Park is thought to contain potential reserves of up to 800 million barrels of oil, and Ecuador produces about 500,000 barrels of oil a day.
And guess where most of it is exported. That’s right, the United States.
Right now in the U.S., there is an ongoing debate about whether the Keystone pipeline should be extended.
One of the controversial issues of the extension is that it would go through the Ogallala Aquifer, which covers eight states and provides drinking water for nearly 2 million people.
It would be beneficial for the U.S. to be energy and oil independent, but at what cost to our own majestic land and waters?
Remember the BP Deepwater Horizon disaster that not only took the lives of 11 people, but also caused enormous amounts of damage to the Gulf Coast environments?
The aftermath of that tragedy was horrendous, and I’d hate to see other accidents like that in the future.
President Obama seems concerned about the environment and climate change, and hasn’t yet made a decision on the pipeline and other related issues.
The president’s most recent comments on the matter indicate that the pipeline’s effect on climate will be “absolutely critical” in his decision.
According to The White House’s website, the U.S. is currently at a 20-year low for its dependence on foreign oil, yet that doesn’t seem to help us at the gas pump.
The technology that would be effective for energy and less harmful to the environment exists.
We need to use more wind, solar and biofuel resources.
Along the way, we might even solve the unemployment crisis by creating manufacturing jobs to build the wind turbines and solar panels.
In fact, there’s a General Electric wind turbine plant in Pensacola.
President Obama has been a proponent of these eco-friendly alternatives, but what he has done, such as requiring all cars to have an average fuel economy of 54.5 miles per gallon by 2025, isn’t enough.
I want to preserve the environment as much as possible, and even though the environmental situation might not get any better, I don’t want it to get any worse either.
I hope the president figures out a plan that will boost the economy and save the planet from further destruction, instead of giving up on preservation as Correa did.