The Hill | July 19, 2016 | Lucas Frances
Yesterday an article by the Alaska Wilderness League appeared in these pages, arguing for President Obama to exclude the Arctic from the Department of Interior’s forthcoming offshore oil and gas leasing program.
The opinion paints a vivid picture of the conflict between ‘protection advocates’ trying to save the Arctic and industry’s attempts to exploit it. But for all the florid prose and dramatic language, the piece failed to acknowledge a number of important issues.
For one thing, support for Arctic energy development is not limited to ‘Big Oil’ (if indeed a project sponsored by the Independent Petroleum Association of America can be characterized as such). It extends far beyond.
In a 2014 poll, 73 percent of Alaskans expressed support for Arctic offshore oil and gas drilling, many of whom have urged the Department of the Interior to keep Arctic Outer Continental Shelf leasing in the final program in recent months.
Crucially that support extends to the Native groups who would be most affected by development. An analysis of the docket of public comments on the proposed program, shows that a clear majority of Native organizations, including the Bering Straits Native Corporation, Aleut Corporation, Olgoonik Corporation, Arctic Slope Regional Corporation and Ahtna Corporation, want to see offshore Arctic oil and gas developed.
As John Hopson Jr., the Mayor of Wainwright, Alaska, starkly noted, “without measured, responsible development of Alaska’s offshore resources, our (Native) communities face a grim economic future.”
The reason the vast majority of Alaskans have spoken out in favor of the industry is that they recognize the essential role it plays in the State’s economy, providing roughly one-third of its jobs and 90 percent of its revenues. Significantly, exploitation of the state’s offshore resources could generate tens of thousands of new jobs and billions in state and local tax revenues in the future.
Read the full opinion piece here.
Lucas Frances is spokesperson for the Arctic Energy Center.