During Wednesday’s Secretary of State Confirmation hearing, Sen. Ed Markey (D-MA) in an about-face supported domestic oil development, citing increased energy security as necessary to reduce the “strategic vulnerably” the U.S. faces when importing foreign oil.
Touting the benefits of domestic oil development is not uncommon for elected officials, especially considering the massive quantities of oil located in the U.S. Arctic and lower 48 states, but Sen. Markey’s statement is notable for a specific reason: his history of vehemently opposing most hydrocarbon production, particularly America’s Arctic offshore development.
As Sen. Markey stated during an exchange with Secretary of State Nominee Rex Tillerson yesterday during the hearing (beginning at 5:50 mark):
“Well, I appreciate that, but I also appreciate the fact that we are still importing from Saudi Arabia and other countries in the Middle East and I do feel that that’s unnecessary if we could develop our capacity within our country to be able to develop oil. So Canada is one thing. Saudi Arabia is another thing all together. I just don’t think a barrel of oil is a barrel of oil. I think it has real consequences when it’s coming from a country that has itself a strategic vulnerability that can be bolstered by the fact that we need or other countries need their oil.”
Considering the U.S. Arctic represents an estimated 90 billion barrels of undiscovered, technically recoverable oil – roughly 26 billion barrels of which are located offshore in the Chukchi and Beaufort Seas – Sen. Markey is correct that working to “develop our capacity” to produce U.S. oil would further strengthen American energy security and decrease dependence on imported oil. Not to mention economic benefits associated with Arctic offshore production, as the oil and gas industry accounted for 90 percent of Alaska’s state general revenue as of 2015.
But while offshore oil production in the Arctic would improve U.S. energy security and is supported by 76 percent of local Alaskans, Sen. Markey’s previous actions and statements have been in direct opposition with expanded U.S. oil development. In the last three months alone, Markey has released no less than five official statements applauding the Obama Administration’s decision to ban or limit offshore energy development in the Arctic. In fact, Sen. Markey led a small group of Senators in pressuring the Obama Administration to “permanently” ban Arctic offshore drilling through the Section 12(a) of the Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act (OCSLA), which the President ultimately did.
It would seem then, that Senator Markey is guilty of the very thing he was inaccurately accusing of the Secretary of State nominee – a disregard for American energy production and support of foreign oil importation. Except, in Sen. Markey’s case, he has not only shown apathy toward U.S. energy security, but actively engaged in weakening it by working against expanded Arctic offshore oil development.