On Thursday the National Ocean Industries Association (NOIA) hosted its annual membership meeting in Washington, D.C. Leading experts spoke on a variety of issues currently impacting the offshore energy industry, including regulatory concerns, global affairs, energy policy, and infrastructure development. The American Arctic was one topic of considerable focus, specifically the importance of energy production to the region and the regulatory policies that are hindering much-needed progress.
Kara Moriarty of the Alaska Oil and Gas Association (AOGA) addressed both the domestic and international consequences of allowing advancement in the Arctic to regress. She stated that energy production is a central fixture of Alaska’s economy::
“Oil and gas drives the state’s economy and Prudhoe Bay changed the state forever. One third of jobs are attributed to the industry. In practice that means that for every direct job created directly, twenty additional jobs are created in the public and private sectors”
Development of Alaska’s outer Continental shelf has provided Alaskans with approximately 110,000 jobs and $6 billion in public and private sector wages. For the citizens of Alaska, particularly indigenous communities, the oil and gas industry is a lifeline that cannot be ignored.
The Arctic also plays an increasingly significant role in international affairs. As sea ice continues to recede, a bounty of opportunities are presenting themselves to Arctic nations which, theoretically, will lead to increased contact and cooperation with other foreign actors. Unfortunately, the United States has yet to truly take advantage of these new prospects. Moriarty stated,
“The Arctic is being developed internationally and the rest of the world continues to push ahead with developing their own resources. Just last week Russia celebrated the docking of a new world class icebreaker) that will help open up the region to greater oil and gas activity. And on Monday they announced the start of exploration drilling at Khatangsky, in the country’s north east.”
While countries such as Russia are actively embracing the Arctic’s newfound potential, many in the United States have largely overlooked just how important the Arctic will be for our strategic interests in the coming decades. Proactive development in the region is not only in the best interest of Alaska but also the nation as a whole.
Development has the potential to create 55,000 yearly jobs across the U.S. over the next fifty years, 35,000 jobs in Alaska with an estimated payroll of more than $70 billion, over $15 billion in revenue for Alaska, and more than $4 billion in property taxes to local governments. The development of the Chukchi and Beaufort seas will also create a ripple effect of economic opportunities across the State of Alaska which will dramatically improve infrastructure and general quality of life, especially in its Arctic communities.
This sentiment was echoed by Rebecca Logan of the Alaska Support Industry Alliance at Thursday’s NOIA event:
“Alaska needs investment in new and expanded infrastructure as a priority. Without it, economic opportunities simply won’t happen…As an example take our ports. We have 125 ports in total, but they are spread across 44,000 miles of coastline. That’s why we received a D grade in the American Society of Civil Engineers recent infrastructure report”
Alaska’s infrastructure is in need of dramatic improvements, and without the substantial economic investment of Arctic energy production, development plans remain just that- plans. The responsible development of this region is a catalyst for generations of meaningful and significant progress.