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Falling Behind in Alaska

Today The Wall Street Journal ran an op-ed discussing the need to continue developing our domestic resources, specifically in Alaska:

Long literally and figuratively frozen to outside investors, the Arctic now has melting sea ice and thawing tundra that are yielding huge resource opportunities. According to the U.S. Geological Survey and Alaskan state studies, 22% of the world’s undiscovered oil and gas reserves are to be found in the Arctic. On the North Slope alone, there’s an estimated 40 billion barrels of oil and 236 trillion cubic feet of gas.

The Arctic is also home to some of the world’s largest zinc, nickel and rare earth mineral deposits, as well as fresh water, which is increasingly important in a warming world. Another resource is the Arctic’s sea routes, which, if realized, would be many thousands of miles shorter than traditional seaways around the two capes or through the two canals. The Bering Strait could one day host the next Singapore. With massive tidal, wind and geothermal capacity, the Arctic also has renewable energy potential.

Russia is actively working to open the Barents region. Canada is doing the same in the Yukon. Norway and Iceland each have multibillion-dollar energy projects underway. And Greenland, for now still under Danish rule, is exploring 31 billion barrels of oil estimated to be off its coast.

But the U.S. has left Alaska in the icebox. Energy production in the North Slope has been in decline for years to the point of threatening the viability of the trans-Alaskan pipeline. In contrast to other nations pocketing the Arctic’s bounty, the U.S. has no major new investment projects there.

Read more here.

A number of excellent points. There are trillions of dollars worth of resources locked up both on land and offshore in Alaska. 40 billion barrels of oil is roughly equal to 5 years of total U.S. consumption at our approximate rate of 7.5 billion barrels per year. 236 trillion cubic feet of natural gas is a bit less than a decade of consumption at our current rate. There are also untold amounts of other valuable minerals used in a wide variety of technologies.

While I don’t agree with the authors that signing the 1982 LOST (Law of the Sea Treaty) would be a good idea, the need for the federal government to get out of the way is spot on. The Alaskan resources can be developed responsibly while respecting ecologically sensitive areas, and bring jobs that pay well to a number of small Alaskan communities. The federal government, at the behest of enormous environmental activist groups, is not allowing this to happen. Given the President’s focus on lowering unemployment, why are these projects being ignored?

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