U.S. Arctic development shouldn’t get the cold shoulder

Perspectives blog
Ken Cohen - Aug. 31, 2015

As President Obama tours Alaska this week, let’s hope he will recognize the benefits of resource development to the state’s economy, not to mention the significant contributions the 49th state makes to American energy security, manufacturing, and national security.

Cold_Shoulder_Feature_08-2015A coalition of Alaskan labor and business organizations wrote the president last week to welcome him to the state, specifically calling attention to the many benefits of resource development. Mind you, those benefits extend not just to Alaskans, but to residents of the Lower 48 as well.

Currently 88 percent of state revenues come from natural resource development, which is dominated by oil and natural gas production. It accounts for 110,000 jobs and $6 billion in public- and private-sector wages.

Alaska’s oil and gas production obviously benefits all Americans. The state has ranked among the leading energy producers in the United States since the discovery at Prudhoe Bay in 1968 and the construction of the Trans-Alaska Pipeline.

But Alaskan crude oil production has fallen by roughly two-thirds since the 1980s, in large part because of federal prohibitions on energy development in some of the state’s most promising regions both onshore and offshore. Alaska’s prosperity depends on future natural resource development, but the federal government is standing in the way despite the state’s seemingly limitless potential.

Alaskans aren’t letting Washington off the hook.

The Arctic Slope Regional Corporation, which represents the Iñupiat Eskimos of northern Alaska, is running television ads asking the president to show real support for Arctic energy development.

The group’s president and CEO, Rex Rock, expanded on that message in a piece today in Forbes:

The White House technically on paper supports development of the nation’s Arctic resources as a part of its “All of the Above” energy strategy. But in practice, its drilling regulations, in particular the Arctic Standards Rule, make commercial development practically impossible.

Ultimately, the Arctic is a region with an interest in striking a balance between environmental stewardship and economic growth.

It is not a pristine snow globe that should be locked away in a museum of pretty places. It is a vast, vibrant, and diverse area that comes with unique challenges as well as huge opportunities to better the lives of the people who live in it, as well as those in the rest of the country we call home.

Citing the recent Arctic Potential report from the National Petroleum Council, retired U.S. Navy admiral and former Chief of Naval Operations Gary Roughead explained in a Wall Street Journal op-ed last week that the U.S. risks missing out on a big opportunity in the Arctic:

The U.S. needs Arctic energy exploration. Yet by repeatedly putting the brakes on the development of natural resources in the Arctic, Washington has injected uncertainty into its Arctic policy and threatened the future energy security of U.S. citizens.

If we subject energy companies to death by a thousand paper cuts that put stifling bureaucracy over national strategic needs, we will cede this critical strategic region to others with grave economic, security and environmental implications for generations to come.

This is a lot to keep in mind as the president delivers remarks this evening in Anchorage and visits local communities over the next two days.

Tags:   Arcticenergy demandglobal energy demandsafety
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