Arctic Development Can Help Ensure National and Energy Security

forbes-01Forbes | July 26, 2016 | Brigham A. McCown

Thanks to its strategic location and plentiful reserves, the state of Alaska provides a unique opportunity to bolster national security through infrastructure creation and the development of the world’s largest conventional energy resources. Alaska and the rest of the United States have much to gain from energy exploration of those projects offshore from the North Slope.

The clearest example of these benefits is the Trans Alaska Pipeline Systems, or TAPS as it is more frequently known, which has been a vital source of energy supply, particularly to Western states, and is evidence of the synergies between regional development, domestic energy production and national security.

Despite a decline in output from TAPS, the United States is in the enviable position of being able to supplement onshore production with its vast offshore Arctic resources. Two Arctic sites, the Beaufort and Chukchi seas, are currently under consideration for inclusion in the Department of Interior’s 2017-2022 Outer Continental Shelf Leasing Program.

The inclusion of those leases could have a critical impact in ensuring Alaska’s future economic well-being. If the Administration decides to remove the Arctic from the next plan, as is rumored, the state will certainly feel the repercussions from lost investment. Put in simple terms, cutting the leases will effectively mean that there will be no revenues from offshore resources in the Arctic for the next twenty years.

But the impact will be felt more broadly. The Senior Senator for Alaska and Chair of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, Senator Lisa Murkowski, touched on this recently when she said that, “to forsake Arctic oil and gas would be to forsake America’s energy security in a world that is using more energy, not less.” Without offshore Arctic resources, the future of TAPS looks bleak and California and other Western States will increasingly have to look overseas for energy supplies.

A group of fifteen senior foreign policy experts, led by former National Security Advisor to President Obama, General James Jones, expanded on this security point when they authored a statement noting the critical role that the Arctic plays in our national defense.

Read the full op-ed here.

Mr. McCown is a former government executive, attorney, public policy expert, and the founder of the non-profit group Aii.

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