Congratulations to President-Elect Barack Obama. Frankly, many RDC members are a bit worried about what the next four or eight years have in store. Me? Well, I was right there with them at first. But, the more I think about it, the more I’m excited by the opportunities and challenges that await. I look forward to working with the Obama Administration to help turn a number of his goals into realities. We must find ways to work together. Ultimately, we must find ways to say yes.
President-Elect Obama has a lofty goal to increase conservation and renewable energy usage in this country. So, to that goal, I say yes! His plan to make all federal buildings more energy efficient is a great start that will put people to work, lead to decreased energy consumption, and ultimately save taxpayer dollars. However, it’s important to remember that over 50% of our nation’s electricity still comes from coal, you can’t fill your gas tanks with conservation, and we’re not quite able to economically drive our cars with renewable energy. Some day maybe, and I commit to working to help make this goal a reality. But until then, we should be responsibly developing the needed energy resources right here in our country, indeed right here in Alaska, and funding research on technologies that decrease emissions.
In the meantime, can the United States develop more clean burning fuels?
And in fact, the Obama administration has endorsed the construction of a natural gas pipeline from the North Slope of Alaska to the lower 48 that will provide 7% of America’s natural gas needs for over 30 years! BP, ConocoPhillips, TransCanada, the Palin Administration, and Alaskans in general want this to happen and all parties are working, though independently, to make this a reality.
Can we decrease our dependence on foreign oil?
Yes we can. How? Well, we can start by responsibly developing oil in, and off the coast of Alaska in NPRA, the Outer Continental Shelf, and maybe even ANWR. We’ve shown we can do it right and much of the infrastructure to make this happen is already in place. The environmental footprint of such development will be minimized by using the existing Trans Alaska Pipeline, which by the way, is only operating at onethird capacity and is near these important prospects. Industry in Alaska operates under the strictest environmental standards in the world so let’s get to work on making this goal a reality right here in Alaska.
Can we develop our natural resources without impacting important animal populations?
Yes, and we already do! Did you know that polar bear numbers have thrived since the inception of oil and gas exploration and development on the North Slope? In addition, more research has been done on polar bears thanks to independent studies funded by industry than ever would have been done without their support. Did you also know that the caribou population in the areas where oil and gas exploration and development have occurred in and around Prudhoe Bay have increased over 12 times, from 3,000 in the early ‘70s to over 36,000 today?
Exploring and developing oil and gas in Alaska should make sense, even to the greenest of environmentalists. Is it better to get oil from third world nations that don’t have the same concern for the environment, for the animals, for the air we breathe, you name it, as we have here in Alaska? Think globally, develop locally!
Can we sequester more carbon dioxide?
Yes! Did you know that new growth trees sequester more CO2 than old growth trees? I’m not saying we should cut all old growth trees down, but we all use wood products (your desk, this newsletter, etc.) and where better to develop our sources of wood than in the two largest national forests, the Tongass and the Chugach, which both happen to be right here in Alaska? And while I’m on this topic, we at RDC believe regulation of greenhouse gas emissions should occur through separate legislation based on sound environmental and economic principles, not by a roundabout way of using the Clean Air Act or the Endangered Species Act. We look forward to working with the new administration and Congress on this as well.
Can we help feed the world?
Yes! Alaska’s fisheries are the best managed in the world. With the oversight of the North Pacific Fisheries Management Council, Alaska’s fisheries are sustainable and more and more of the entire fish is used, sometimes even to create renewable fish oil for powering communities in Alaska.
How about building a smelter in Alaska?
Yes! Right now, we take our raw zinc, gold, and other raw minerals and export them to countries that don’t have the same concern for the environment. Smelters could be operated in Alaska in a way that limits emissions and puts people to work. While we’re at it, why not use geothermal energy, found right here along the Ring of Fire in Alaska to make it happen in an even cleaner manner?
These are just some of the ways we can say Yes! Our lifestyles and the things we depend on every day still require oil, gas, minerals, wood, fish, and more! Alaska can provide these things in a responsible manner to help move our economy and our environment forward. I look forward to working with the Obama Administration to help them say Yes as well.
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