Administration must hear from Alaskans about energy future

Much to our misfortune, the administration has once again shown how a faraway federal bureaucracy can do and will do what it wants, when it wants — with zero input from those who will be affected most.

Earlier this year, the federal government made a series of controversial proclamations regarding Alaska and its surrounding Arctic region that sent political shockwaves throughout the state and the country.

First, President Obama announced that he would continue to block energy production in millions of acres of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, Alaska’s best onshore energy prospect, then made significant areas of the U.S. Arctic Ocean off limits to energy exploration as well.

Together, the decisions snatched away tens of thousands of would-be jobs and billions in expected revenue, all without first conferring with those who would be most affected by these decisions — Alaskan consumers themselves.

Fortunately, Alaskans finally got a chance to speak out earlier this month at a pep-rally-like press conference hosted by Consumer Energy Alliance-Alaska which was attended by several representatives from an assortment of industry and consumer advocate groups, like the Alaska Trucking Association

The turnout was extraordinary. Dozens of consumers, as well as labor and business leaders, packed the event to express their support for more offshore Alaskan energy production, some holding up signs that read “OCS YES!”

We hope the administration will see, feel, and hear what we saw, heard, and felt that day, the fears and uncertainties Alaskans have about their future, their children’s future, and their grandchildren’s future thanks to an administration that continues to hurt Alaska’s bread-and-butter industry — energy.

“I got two little grandsons and I’m looking at them, hoping that when they’re old enough to get into the workforce that OCS is going to be cranking along and that we’re going to be having jobs to put them to work, to earn money, to raise their families,” Alaska AFL-CIO President Vince Beltrami said at the press conference.

The gathering was held moments before the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management held an open house about its proposed 2017-2022 Outer Continental Shelf (OCS) Oil & Gas Leasing Program — a plan that is “woefully inadequate” as currently drafted, said former Lt. Gov. Mead Treadwell.

Here’s why: The Alaska Outer Continental Shelf (OCS) has about 27 billion barrels of oil and 132 trillion cubic feet of natural gas. Development of these resources would create 54,000 jobs and $193 billion in federal revenue. These resources could help get Alaska out of its multibillion-dollar budget shortfall, help power millions of American homes, and help extend the longevity of the Trans-Alaska Pipeline System (TAPS), an energy artery for the lower 48 states that continues to face a declining throughput.

“TAPS, which is operating at one-fourth capacity, is the economic lifeblood of Alaska’s economy and a critical link to the nation’s long-term energy security,” Rick Rogers, executive director of the Resource Development Council of Alaska, said.

As such, Alaskans of all political affiliations continue to urge the feds to allow the safe and responsible exploration and production of the massive amounts of natural resources that pepper the Alaskan and Arctic regions, but impediments to development persist.

The DOI’s leasing plan is the latest hurdle. While the proposal includes three sales off Alaska — one in the Beaufort Sea, Chukchi Sea, and Cook Inlet, it also restricts leasing in certain areas. Moreover, it remains uncertain if even those three lease sales would proceed in the future.

This is not the plan we need to guarantee that Alaska remains a significant component of the expanding American energy equation, which has made worldwide, geopolitical headlines in recent years for its top-ranked oil and natural gas production. Instead, we need a strategy that utilizes every resource we have available to us, regardless of where it is, to guarantee greater energy self-sufficiency. Alaska, ANWR, and its encircling Arctic regions are included.

There is a lot riding on sustaining and expanding Alaskan energy production – the pocketbooks of consumers, the balance sheets of businesses and governments, and the job security of millions.

Now it’s up to us to preserve that economic lifeline by letting the administration know how we feel about their defective strategy.

David Holt is the president of Consumer Energy Alliance and Aves Thompson is the executive director of the Alaska Trucking Association.

11/20/2016 - 7:53am