Energy Development Benefits Life on Alaska's North Slope
Posted June 21, 2018
Last week, we wrote about the many benefits to opening up a small portion of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR) to natural gas and oil development – especially job creation, economic growth and long-term U.S. energy security. But there’s another benefit that warrants attention, and that’s the direct, measured improvements in the lives of Alaskans living in areas where energy development is occurring.
Alaska state Senate Majority Leader Cathy Giessel made this point during the federal Bureau of Land Management’s final public hearing before BLM writes its environmental review of ANWR development. Giessel said a recent report in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) underscores the point that energy development helps improve the lives of people who live nearby, as has been seen in Texas, North Dakota and other states. The same holds true for Alaskans on the North Slope:
“As the chair of the Alaska Senate Resources committee, I could speak about the oil and gas in the 1002, the profits for governments, the long history of safe resource extraction, and positive data about our healthy fish and game. But I ask you to consider the most important factor. That being the effect on the people of Alaska. …
[The AMA research shows that] compared to the national average, Alaska’s North Slope and NW Arctic Borough experienced greater increases in life expectancy between 1980 and 2014 - increases of 8-14 years of life. … Oil production on the North Slope began in 1979 [and has] brought health and prosperity to the Alaskans living in the area, as well as the rest of the state. [J]obs have changed lives for the better. That’s what resource development means for Alaskans.”
This is very important as federal officials consider ANWR development – especially given large volumes of opposition from places outside of Alaska. While not all Alaskans support ANWR development, most of them do, including those living closest to development on the North Slope.
The JAMA report concludes that disparities in life expectancy across U.S. counties are large and increasing, with much of the variation explained by a combination of socioeconomic and race/ethnicity factors, behavioral and metabolic risk factors, and health care factors. According to the study, among the local communities with the greatest positive change in life expectancy was the North Slope Borough where ANWR is located, as shown in JAMA’s map below:
Natural gas and oil is an integral part of life in the North Slope, as echoed by Alaska Oil and Gas Association CEO Kara Moriarty:
In its 40-plus years of production, the North Slope has produced, and TAPS has delivered, over 17 billion barrels of oil. This production has provided unparalleled economic and social benefits to the State of Alaska, Alaska Native organizations, municipalities, and all of Alaska’s citizens. To this day, the oil and gas industry remains the backbone of Alaska’s economy. Over 103,875 Alaska jobs are attributable to oil and gas investment and activity, which represents 32% of all Alaska jobs and 35% of all Alaska wages. The oil and gas industry has contributed over $150 billion (not adjusted for inflation) to the State of Alaska through royalties and taxes, and provides the largest cash contribution to the Alaska Permanent Fund.
And that’s what’s already been developed. Opening a small portion of ANWR to future energy development could create tens of thousands of jobs and contribute to significant economic growth, not to mention the estimated $150 billion to $296 billion in new federal revenue that could be generated by natural gas and oil. Yet, the reasons development is supported by most Alaskans hit much closer to home. Just listen to Sen. Giessel’s remarks in April, marking the first steps in opening ANWR:
ANWR’s energy potential is incredibly large, potentially supplying up to 1.4 million barrels of oil per day at peak production according to new U.S. Energy Information Administration estimates. It’s one of America’s most valuable, strategic energy resources, which when it comes online can promote economic growth, increase U.S. energy security and contribute to our country’s prosperity for decades to come – while benefiting neighboring areas, such as those on the North Slope.
About The Author
Jessica Lutz is a writer for the American Petroleum Institute. Jessica joined API after 10+ years leading the in-house marketing and communications for non-profits and trade associations. A Michigan native, Jessica graduated from The University of Michigan with degrees in Communications and Political Science. She resides in London, and spends most of her free time trying to keep up with her energetic Giant Schnauzer, Jackson.