America Needs An Energy-Strong Alaska
Posted May 31, 2019
The stage and podium banners at the Alaska Oil and Gas Association Conference in Anchorage this week had a simple, direct message – “Alaska: Back On The Map.” Certainly, the U.S. will be stronger, more secure and prosperous if the energy in Alaska and the Arctic offshore are developed to their potential.
This was the main point of keynote remarks by API President and CEO Mike Sommers (speech video here) – that an energy-strong Alaska makes America energy strong. The critical factor, Sommers said, is securing access to reserves – in the Alaskan offshore, the designated development zone of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge’s (ANWR) coastal plain and the National Petroleum Reserve-Alaska (NPR-A).
“The more energy the United States can provide for our citizens and for our allies, the stronger and more secure we’ll be, both economically and geopolitically. That’s why U.S. energy security is not just a Permian Basin issue, it’s a Prudhoe Bay issue, and to maintain U.S. energy leadership we need the Gulf of Mexico and we need the Arctic Ocean [and] the Bakken. We need ANWR, we need the Marcellus shale and we need the NPR-A.”
Sommers said the Beaufort and Chukchi seas off Alaska’s northern coast could provide as much energy as the Atlantic and Pacific combined. Industry has the technologies and advanced skills to safely develop those areas and others. Recent discoveries signal Alaska’s North Slope is “ready to reemerge as a super basin,” he said.
Lacking is the right policy, one that recognizes America needs to view Alaska’s energy potential through a long-range, strategic lens so that responsible energy development in Alaska is a national commitment that’s not confounded and confused by changing administrations in Washington or rulings from a courtroom bench. A recent judicial decision putting the Alaska offshore – and potentially other offshore areas – off limits is bad for the United States’ energy security and global energy leadership. Sommers:
“If the U.S. stays on the sidelines, we’re not only missing out on the world’s largest remaining conventional field, but we’re actually going to be losing ground from a national security perspective. It’s that strategic significant that underlies Alaska’s integral role in U.S. energy leadership. U.S. energy security is our national security, and it’s inextricably tied to keeping Alaska energy strong. … To make Alaska stronger than ever, U.S. energy security also will become stronger than ever. Alaska needs freedom to access [its] energy resources.”
Other highlights from Sommers’ speech:
Alaska Energy History – Energy development in Alaska, enhanced by construction and operation of the Trans Alaska Pipeline System (TAPS), helped the U.S. stave off some of the worst effects of 1970s-era energy geopolitics. Sommers:
“When the U.S. energy outlook seemed pretty grim -- with production declining in the lower 48 -- TAPS was a lifeline for this country. And it’s remained a pillar of U.S. energy strength – transporting over 17 billion barrels over the decades. All because – as the motto goes – ‘They didn’t know it couldn’t be done.’ U.S. energy leadership, overall, has traveled roughly the same trajectory, and for the same reasons.”
Technology Leads Energy Revolution – Industry’s ability to innovate and develop advanced technologies created the energy revolution that has made the U.S. the world’s leading natural gas and oil producer. Sommers:
“We’re unlocking resources that we never knew were even there. We’ve gone from fuel shortages and warnings of ‘peak oil’ in the ‘70s, to leading the world in natural gas and oil production. Forty years ago, we were target of an oil embargo imposed by Iran and other OPEC nations. Now, we’re in the driver’s seat –imposing sanctions on Iran, cutting off its energy exports. … We’re not just leading the world. We’re doing it in record-breaking fashion. In 2018, this industry achieved record high natural gas production in the United States, record high oil production in the United States, and record high crude exports. API’s monthly report also echoed these comments. Crude oil production in April sustained a record-tying 12.1 million barrels a day. Truly, truly amazing.”
Natural Gas and Oil Improve American Life – While opponents of natural gas and oil spare no opportunity to slam the industry, it has significantly improved the standard of living in this country. Sommers:
“I don’t think that this industry should shy [away] from making the moral arguments about what this industry has done over the course of the last hundred years. This industry has done more to help the human condition than any industry in the history of time. Every day you work to provide safe, affordable, reliable and increasingly sustainable fuel for the American people and we should be standing from the high hill tops to help tell that story. We shouldn’t be on defense. Every day we should be on offense talking about what this industry does for the American people.”
About The Author
Mark Green joined API after a career in newspaper journalism, including 16 years as national editorial writer for The Oklahoman in the paper’s Washington bureau. Previously, Mark was a reporter, copy editor and sports editor at an assortment of newspapers. He earned his journalism degree from the University of Oklahoma and master’s in journalism and public affairs from American University. He and his wife Pamela have two grown children and six grandchildren.