by Alison WeisburgerOn January 30th, 2012, the PEW Environment Group and the Ocean Conservancy published a joint full-page advertisement in the New York Times urging President Obama to “Base Arctic Ocean Drilling Decisions on Science, not Politics.” They cite an open letter sent to the President on January 23rd and signed by over 500 scientists that argues for delaying new oil and gas activity in the U.S. Arctic Ocean until more scientific research is completed. The ad and letter implore the President and his administration to “stand by your commitment to scientific integrity”.
Just over two weeks after the PEW advertisement, on February 17th 2012, the U.S. Department of the Interiorpublished a press release heralding “Obama Administration Announces Major Steps toward Science-Based Energy Exploration in the Arctic”. The Obama Administration insists that the decision to move forward with development is “informed by the latest science”. At the press conference, Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar highlighted the various initiatives that his Department had to ensure they would bring “the best available science to energy-related decisions in the Arctic”.
Both the environmental advocacy groups as well as the U.S. government assert that their stance on whether or not to proceed with drilling for oil in the Arctic Ocean at this time is based on science. Yet, their views continue to be diametrically opposed despite their public affirmations that scientific information validates each of their positions. If the “science” that both of these groups speak of is truly the systematic, disimpassioned study of facts and truths, how is it possible that their arguments and conclusions are conflicting? I would argue that neither the U.S. government nor environmental advocacy groups can avoid politics in their supposedly “science-based” recommendations for Arctic Ocean oil drilling. Both the environmental groups and the government have value-based priorities that inevitably influence their construal of the body of scientific research.