AJOC EDITORIAL: The right man for Alaska

  • This photo provided by the Interior Department shows Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke arriving for his first day of work at the Interior Department in Washington, Thursday, March 2, 2017, aboard Tonto, an 17-year-old Irish sport horse. (Interior Department via AP)

In a room full of the state’s business leaders dressed in sport coats and summer dresses, the visiting guest of honor looked and sounded as Alaskan as any of them.

Decked out in khaki pants and short sleeves, Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke, a retired Navy SEAL and former congressman for Montana, spoke passionately about President Donald Trump’s vision of American energy policy that goes beyond independence and into “dominance.”

Trump is a tweeting, Tasmanian devil of a president who makes sensational headlines daily for either real or manufactured outrages that overwhelm the sound decisions he’s made with cabinet picks like Zinke.

Alaska’s congressional delegation has not held back from criticizing Trump — its two senators officially withdrew their support for him last October after the infamous Access Hollywood tape was released — but they clearly recognize how greatly his presidency stands to benefit the state.

It’s safe to say no one is missing Zinke’s predecessor Sally Jewell.

“What a difference six months makes!” Sen. Dan Sullivan gushed at the Alaska Chamber reception for Zinke on May 30.

Zinke is also a geologist, and noted that not long ago in the early 2000s the trendy energy consensus position was the looming “peak oil” when the world would reach maximum oil production and start a gradual decline.

Boy, was that wrong.

If anything we’ve reached “peak OPEC” where the oil cartel’s ability to control world prices at its whim has been eroded by the U.S. shale revolution that is undermining current production cuts of about 1.7 million barrels per day from its member nations and Russia.

Now we have countries like Saudi Arabia nearly begging U.S. shale producers to cut back as prices have flattened out at about $50 per barrel and drillers are squeezing so many efficiencies out of their wells that some can make money at prices $34 or higher, according to Bloomberg.

OPEC thought they could break the shale drillers.

Boy, was that wrong, too.

The U.S. has become the world’s No. 1 energy producer and we can tell OPEC to go pound the abundant sand of the Middle Eastern deserts.

Zinke referenced his military career in the context of the goal of energy dominance.

The United States’ deep involvement in the Middle East and in particular the Persian Gulf has always been about preserving the steady flow of oil that’s led us into wars and uncomfortable alliances with some of the worst governments on the planet.

With the humility of one who has served, Zinke told the audience that he never wants to see anyone’s sons or daughters go to war and see the things he’s seen over access to oil.

There is renewed hope to finally open the coastal plain of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to oil development, as was intended when the so-called “1002” area was set aside under the 1980 Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act.

And before you hear the usual tropes about how ANWR production does nothing to change the U.S. energy picture — “drop in the bucket” often springs forth from the anti-development groups — it is worth realizing just how much that estimated million barrels per day figures under current domestic production levels.

Not only would that amount triple the current throughput for the Trans-Alaska Pipeline System, it represents 20 percent of our 2016 net imports of oil.

A million barrels per day is nearly the 1.1 million in imports from Saudi Arabia and would completely erase the 800,000 barrels per day from the deteriorating socialist wasteland of Venezuela.

All in all, since the lifting of the ban on crude oil exports last year championed by Sen. Lisa Murkowski, the United States has net imports of less than 5 million barrels per day with almost 60 percent of that total from our neighbors in Canada.

Energy independence is within reach. So, too, is energy dominance.

Trump truly found the right champion for that cause in Zinke and Alaska will be nothing but better for it.

Andrew Jensen can be reached at andrew.jensen@alaskajournal.com.

Updated: 
05/31/2017 - 3:11pm

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