Oil drilling has already hurt Alaska's environment

Drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge is far from compatible with its irreplaceable wildlife and wilderness, as George Ahmaogak suggests in his opinion piece "Arctic drilling will help natives" (Oct. 25). According to numerous independent scientific studies, development at Prudhoe Bay and Alaska's other oil fields has led to serious and long-term environmental damage.

Female caribou have been displaced from their preferred habitat. Grizzlies and arctic foxes have become dependent on handouts. And the fragile landscape and its permafrost have been scarred by tracks, roads, pipelines, and nearly 1,000 square miles of other facilities. Far from an environmental model, North Slope oil drilling has caused 55 contaminated waste sites, an average of more than 400 spills every year, and massive air pollution.

It's true that many of Alaska's Inupiat Eskimos favor drilling in the Arctic Refuge because of the potential financial gain. However, most of them are already shareholders in the native-owned Arctic Slope Regional Corp. which is a Fortune 500 company and already profits handsomely from Alaska's oil-rich lands.

It would be a tragic mistake to plunder America's only protected Arctic coastline for a speculative, short-term fix of oil.

Adam Kolton Washington Arctic Campaign Director Alaska Wilderness League

Misconstrued effects of spending

In his Oct. 25 column, "Be careful with tax cuts," Dante Chinni is mostly correct when he says that tax cuts stimulate economic growth. As economists would say, tax cuts increase aggregate demand. He is also correct in pointing out that too much aggregate demand can cause inflation.

Mr. Chinni uses these principles to say that George W. Bush's proposed tax cuts "could cause more serious harm" than Al Gore's spending plans.

What Chinni apparently fails to understand is that government spending also increases aggregate demand. In fact, government spending is likely to increase aggregate demand more in the short term than a tax cut of equal size.

Erik D. Randolph Penbrook, Penn.

Corporate funds soil campaign process

Thank you for your Oct. 24 editorial on soft money ("Let votes, not dollars, rule"). Corporate influence in politics is our biggest obstacle to democracy. Even increased voter participation will achieve nothing until campaign finance has been reformed.

Your editorial mentions soft money's role in campaigns, yet what about the role of the two major parties and their corporate sponsors who fund the unelected Commission on Presidential Debates?

This unelected commission, run by former heads of the Democratic and Republican Parties, put rules in place for the 2000 debates that would have excluded Ross Perot from the 1992 debates had they been in effect. It appears they are afraid of candidates like Ralph Nader, who opposes corporate sponsorship of our political system.

Michael Stieber Boulder, Colo.

Polls contribute to low voter turnout

How right Godfrey Sperling is about polls! ("For whom the poll tolls," Oct. 24) The electoral mystique and surprise is removed from the voting process by polls. Do we really need to know what a fractional part of this country may think will be the outcome? Have the polls actually increased voter apathy by reducing the value of the individual vote?

Charles Smith Jr. Charlottesville, Va.

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