Energy & Environment

A new American energy plan must begin and end in Alaska

A new American energy plan must begin and end in Alaska
Ships bringing oil drilling equipment to Alaska pass through Seattle’s Elliott Bay, June 27, 2012.

If the United States is going to break its dependence on foreign energy and finally craft a pragmatic and diversified energy plan, it must start and end with Alaska.

Oil and natural gas, hydropower and the variety of alternative and renewable energy sources found throughout Alaska all make up the varied energy supplies that my state stands ready to offer the United States. Besides simply adding to our nation’s energy security, developing these potential new sources of energy means new jobs and an economic boost to our struggling nation—all while costing the taxpayers nothing.

With unemployment stagnate at more than 8 percent and the price of gasoline on the rise again, now is the time to move from energy potential to production.

Recently, one of the most exciting American energy-related developments in years occurred in Alaska. For the first time in more than 20 years, a well is being drilled in the Chukchi Sea, off Alaska’s Arctic coast. Due to incessant litigation and endless federal bureaucracy, it has taken six years and more than $4 billion for this well to become a reality.

While this is certainly a positive development, the Obama administration has taken a number of steps that may prohibit this oil from ever reaching the thirsty gas tanks of the American people. For example, any development off Alaska’s coast in the Arctic will necessarily have to cross the National Petroleum Reserve Alaska (NPRA) by pipeline.  Unfortunately, just a few weeks ago, the Department of Interior proposed a new management plan for the NPRA that would significantly curtail development, place many new areas off-limits, and seriously threaten the likelihood of pipeline construction

The president’s prevarications

Keep all of this in mind the next time you hear President Obama take credit for the increase in U.S. oil and gas production or the decrease in petroleum imports.

Taken at face value, the president’s claims regarding energy sound like a proposition any American should support. However, when the curtain is lifted, sadly, we’re left with a string of deceptive or exaggerated statements. For example, during the 2012 State of the Union speech, the president said, “American oil production is the highest that it’s been in eight years.” True, but only if you include private and state lands, on which President Obama’s regulatory left-hook cannot land. Unfortunately, in Alaska, more than 60 percent of the land is controlled by our benevolent federal landlords at the Departments of Interior and Agriculture.

In another instance, the President boasted that, this year, the U.S. has imported less oil than in the past 16 years. Sure, this is an achievement inasmuch as one thinks it’s positive that Americans have altered their behaviors because of the recession, high price of gasoline, and their own unemployment. Only in Washington D.C. would a result like this be touted as a success.

And remember, this is the same president who gave Brazil $2 billion for developing its offshore oil and then publicly proclaimed his ambition to be its best customer, all the while blocking drilling in the Arctic and off the Atlantic and Gulf coasts in the Department of Interior’s newly revealed five-year plan. So much for the State of the Union promise that his Administration will open 75 percent of our potential offshore oil and gas prospects.

In November, the American people are faced with a stark choice–do they vote for an incumbent president who consistently stands in the way of developing American-made energy (even though he consistently and inexplicably says otherwise) or do we head in a new direction with a Republican candidate who is committed to developing America’s enormous resource base, putting Americans back to work, and recovering the fragile American economy?

Alaskans look around our state and see the many resources that God has blessed on us. They also know how to develop these resources responsibly, and for the benefit of the American people. Unfortunately, time and time again, President Obama has sided with environmentalists, helping them stifle the most powerful economic engine in Alaska, while claiming otherwise in the press and on the stump. It’s time for a change.

My No. 1 priority this Congress has been to work with my colleagues to get this economy moving again. I believe the best way to achieve that is to start doing big things again–starting in Alaska. Whether we’re talking about the Beaufort and Chukchi Seas or the president’s continued opposition to developing ANWR, these are projects that Alaskans overwhelmingly support for one simple reason–they will create thousands of well-paying jobs while also lessening the pain we all feel at the pump.

For the foreseeable future, fossil fuels will continue to power our economy, especially when we take into account transportation. Whether it’s planes, trains, automobiles or ships, our transportation sector is still fueled primarily by oil and natural gas. No campaign promise will change that fact.

When I think about America’s energy future, I am reminded of President Calvin Coolidge’s statement, “The most common commodity in this country is unrealized potential.” Today, Alaska holds unrealized potential with our vast traditional and renewable energy resources. America’s leaders now must have the courage to act on that potential to recharge our economy and achieve energy security for future generations.

Alaskans stand ready to meet that challenge.

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