Alaska’s Gov. Walker Asks President Obama to Develop More of State’s Resources

Published October 7, 2015

President Barack Obama visited Alaska in September to argue global warming is an urgent problem requiring international action. Alaska Gov. Bill Walker hitched a ride on Air Force One to ask Obama to allow the federal government to help Alaska access more fossil fuels, the consumption of which President Obama views as one of the primary drivers of global warming. 

Earlier this year, Gov. Walker argued Obama and Interior Secretary Sally Jewell had declared war on Alaska’s future by asking Congress to declare a big portion of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge as wilderness, potentially making it off limits to oil and gas exploration.

Robert Dillon, communications director for the U.S. Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, says Alaskans are being denied the ability to grow their economy.

“The Obama administration has moved to impose new restrictions on 22 million acres of Alaska – on some of our nation’s richest oil and natural gas assets – this year alone,” Dillon said. “They have cut the National Petroleum Reserve in half and demanded mitigation payments on the projects that remain that far outweigh their potential environmental impact, they’ve placed new restrictions offshore, and want to increase federal protection of the Arctic coastal plain.”

Alaskans Denied Opportunities

All of these moves by the Obama administration are highly frustrating for Alaskans, says Dillon, because they have already given more than 100 million acres of their land over to conservation.

“Alaska has more federally managed land – including 58 million acres of designated wilderness – than any state in the nation,” Dillon said. “We’re proud of our public lands, but Alaskans also want the opportunity to continue to develop their world-class energy resources for the good of our economy and the nation’s energy security. We have an 800-mile long pipeline that is struggling – not because Alaska is running out of oil, but because we’re being denied the opportunity to develop the resources we have.” 

Alaska Has Resources

Kara Moriarty, president and CEO of the Alaska Oil and Gas Association says she admires Gov. Walker for arranging the meeting with the president to tout the state’s abundance of resources which are necessary for the economy and security of the nation.

“Gov. Walker took it upon himself to tell President Obama Alaska has a lot of resources and we have a history of developing them while protecting the environment,” Moriarty said. 

“I don’t find it odd at all that Gov. Walker took this step,” said Moriarty. “The federal government owns 60 percent of the land in Alaska and very little of the state’s oil is found on private lands. Almost 99 percent of production has come from the state and we pay royalties to the state and the federal government.” 

Because of the vastness of Alaska and the energy resources contained within the state, Moriarty says it is far better to develop them than to sit on them. 

“Some 17 billion barrels of oil are contained in Prudhoe Bay, but we think the next big find will be between 40 billion and 50 billion barrels of recoverable oil on federally controlled land, but the Obama administration has made it pretty hard to request drilling permits there because they want to treat much of it like a wilderness preserve,” Moriarty said.

“We have one-third of the nation’s oil reserves and the country’s next big development,” notes Moriarty. “Do I fault Gov. Walker for trying to bend the president’s ear? Heck no!”

Kenneth Artz ([email protected]) writes from Dallas, Texas.