The New Face of the Oregonian, Part 1: Drill, Baby, Drill!
Last month, the Oregonian announced that they had hired the Bend Bulletin’s Erik Lukens to be the paper’s new Editorial Page Editor. At the time, we wrote that it signaled a further shift to the right for the state’s “paper of record.”
In the weeks since, we've conducted research into the editorials that came out under Lukens's direction and found that it’s even more extreme than we originally thought. On the issues that matter most to Oregonians, Lukens and the Bulletin editorial board took a far-right position that is completely at odds with the Oregonian’s readership.
Today, we begin a five-part series looking at just how contrary Lukens is to the values of progressive Oregonians.
While most Portlanders pride themselves on their city’s commitment to sustainability, Erik Lukens—the Oregonian’s new Editorial Page Editor—has shown an outright belligerence to basic environmental protections.
Just how out of touch is he? While he headed up the Bend Bulletin’s editorial page, Lukens attempted to make a case for drilling for oil in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR) in Alaska. Environmentalists have long fought to defend the protected area from oil exploration because of the permanent damage it would do to the region’s wildlife and habitat.
In of a show of just how much contempt Lukens has for the environmental movement, he chose to publish this editorial on—of all days—Earth Day, 2008.
Here’s the intro:
Today being Earth Day, we figured we’d say a few nice words about the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge; specifically, drilling in it. Conventional wisdom has it that extracting oil from this piece of Alaska’s coastal plain would amount to environmental desecration of intolerable magnitude. We wonder.
The rest of the editorial argues for drilling as a way of advancing U.S. energy independence, ignoring the evidence that drilling in ANWR wouldn’t actually change the amount of oil the U.S. imports.
This gung-ho, “Drill, Baby, Drill!” attitude is deeply rooted in rhetoric pouring out of corporate front groups like FreedomWorks and Americans for Prosperity, doing the bidding of their funders: the oil industry. You’d expect these words from the likes of Sarah Palin, but from the head of the Oregonian’s editorial board?
It gets worse. Not content with drilling in protected, pristine wildlife refuges, Lukens also advocated for oil drilling off of Oregon’s coast.
In his fervor to attack any of Ted Kulongoski’s environmental initiatives, Lukens criticized the then-governor’s strong stance against offshore drilling. Even after admitting that “opening up drilling wouldn’t mean a drop in oil prices overnight,” the editorial argued for short-sighted, anti-environment measures.
Gov. Ted Kulongoski has been clear and consistent in his opposition to oil drilling in Oregon’s coastal waters. Watching the price of gas go up, we wonder if he would reconsider… Kulongoski is right about the long-term goal of improving the country’s energy security. But as economist John Maynard Keynes put it: “In the long run, we’re all dead.” In the shorter run, we could all use some relief at the pump.
Two years later, the BP Gulf Coast oil disaster showed the rest of the country how catastrophic it can be to have massive oil platforms off the coast. If Lukens had his way, we’d have these ticking time bombs all along the Oregon coast.
For Lukens, it’s not just a policy disagreement—his editorials show that he’s on a crusade against environmentalists. He consistently pits business interests against the environment and vice versa, which runs contrary to Portland’s world- renown sustainability industry.
One final, clear example of Lukens’ contempt for people who care about the planet: In 2009, Bend schools worked with The Environmental Center to add educational EarthSmart presentations to complement or build onto the curriculum the schools were already covering. One part of the presentation included an “Eco-Footprint” survey that helped students learn about their current “Eco-Footprint” and the impact of eco-friendly choices. When Lukens got word of this “scandal,” his editorial board got the vapors:
Many students, no doubt, will feel horrible about themselves and their earth-murdering families after completing this survey, which is essentially the environmental version of a hellfire-and-brimstone sermon. Eco-sinners, repent! The district’s open-door policy for environmental proselytizing raises numerous questions that the school board ought to ask. Is such proselytizing a good use of limited instructional time?
Bottom line: The Editorial Board of Oregon’s largest newspaper is now being run by a man who’s adamantly opposed to basic efforts that would protect the environment.
Lukens’ viewpoint may fit perfectly well with Publisher N. Christian Anderson III, the staunch libertarian from Orange County, but it’s wildly out-of-touch with what’s left of the Oregonian’s readership.