This week, 36 Republican senators sent a letter to Department of Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke expressing their support for expanding offshore energy development in the Arctic’s outer continental shelf.
“We support many of the steps the Department has taken to strengthen and reinforce the United States’ position as an energy dominant superpower,” the letter read. “Offshore leasing benefits the economies of all the states, helps reduce the federal deficit, provides affordable energy to families and businesses, and strengthens our national security.”
The policymakers’ letter comes on the heels of the Interior Department’s announcement that it is working on a new Five Year Plan for offshore development, thanks to President Trump reversing President Obama’s executive order which banned drilling in the majority of the Arctic Ocean. This legislative action, combined with the Interior Department’s announcement, is a tremendous step towards unlocking the Arctic’s huge energy potential. The senator’s letter is another action that continues momentum in the region. The question is not if the state of Alaska and the U.S. as a whole will benefit from expanding energy development in the Arctic, the question is how substantial these benefits will be.
It is estimated that the Arctic holds 28 billion barrels of oil and 181 trillion cubic feet of natural gas in its reserves. What’s more, the International Energy Agency recently released a report found which found global oil discoveries were at an all-time low. It seems hard to believe that will be a better time than the present to tap into the Arctic’s energy reserves.
This being the case, it is critical development begins now. Due to the lengthy and sometimes inefficient federal permit approval processes, getting energy projects off the ground takes time. In order to feel the benefits that the Arctic’s energy reserves are sure to bring as soon as possible, we must get new oil and gas development projects off the ground as soon as possible.
Conducting new oil and gas projects in the Arctic will help the U.S. maintain our current energy dominance and ensure that this dominance is secured for ears to come. In fact, in a recent report, the National Petroleum Council said, “Alaskan opportunities can play an important role in extending U.S. energy security in the decades of the 2030s and 2040s.”
The Senators’ message is simple but hugely important: expanding offshore energy development in the Arctic “…benefits the economies of all the states, helps reduce the federal deficit, provides affordable energy to families and businesses, and strengthens our national security.”
The Arctic has the potential to help our nation remain energy secure and energy dominant. It is up to the federal government to unleash that potential in the form of new lease sales and straightforward regulations.