Anti-energy activists rejoiced last month when Shell announced it was pausing its Chukchi Sea drilling plans off Alaska’s North Slope. Several groups claimed they had achieved ‘victory’ and that the company’s decision was a direct result of protests in Alaska and beyond. These cries of ‘success’ completely disregard Alaskans’ reliance on responsible energy development for their livelihood.
Observing the commentary of many of these groups for a brief time, one might be led to believe that their goals are very reasonable including safety, protection of the environment, and improving the lives of the people of Alaska – it is their safety and environment being discussed after all. However, watch what they do and say for more than a few days and their real motive becomes crystal clear – the halt of all energy development in the American Arctic, and indeed anywhere in the world. Whether it can be done safely or done in an environmentally responsible way is not a factor in their thinking. It is NO to any exploration or development– an extreme policy that is incredibly detrimental to the people who actually live in the Arctic.
The newest calls for “no” come from the streets in Seattle where Sierra Club’s Alaska regional director implores Alaskan’s to curtail their jobs and energy production.
A recent Alaska Dispatch News article highlights another Arctic energy project expected to come online in the near future. Opportunistic activists have already announced the Liberty project as their next target for protests.
Multiple environmental groups are interviewed in the piece and their obliviousness to Alaska’s energy-reliant economy is painfully apparent. One of the Center for Biological Diversity’s lawyers from Oakland, California, Miyoko Sakashita adds:
“The last thing we need is another Arctic drilling project [… ] Any drilling is too much drilling.”
One has to wonder who she meant by ‘we’.
This opinion is in stark contrast to local Alaskans and sentiment across the United States. Alaska’s energy resources have been a boon both locally and nationally, generating oil and gas royalties in the billions of dollars, and supplying the oil that California’s refineries depend upon.
The article highlights the Liberty project’s potential for Alaska’s oil and gas pipelines. Oil produced at the island would eventually make its way to the Trans-Alaska pipeline system (TAPS), which is in dire need of oil at the moment. The pipeline is a job creator for the state, and a critical conduit to the U.S. domestic energy supply. Hilcorp’s drilling project would be hugely beneficial for the pipeline and the many Alaskan people it employs.
At AEC, we agree that America’s energy portfolio needs to be safe and environmentally responsible, there’s no argument on those points. However, what many of these activist groups are peddling is a false choice where safety and environmental protection is pitted against energy development. The truth is you can have both and there is ample evidence of that fact.
America and Alaska need energy to allow our economies to grow and prosper. That, of course, includes using American natural gas to keep the lights on and oil to power American transportation while keeping consumer costs down. And all of this can be done without sacrificing safety or our environment. Environmental groups who admonish Arctic energy development of any kind clearly aren’t familiar with how much energy this nation uses and will continue to use for years to come.
Calls to stop American Arctic energy development of any kind are requests that should not be taken seriously. Anti-drilling activists need to do their homework and learn more about America’s energy needs, the resource potential of the Arctic, the long history of successful Arctic energy development and needs of local Alaskans before cavalierly choosing their next protest target.