Feds to Jump-Start Alaska Energy Production

Published August 28, 2017

U.S. Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke signed a secretarial order aimed at restarting oil exploration and production in Alaska’s National Petroleum Reserve (NPR-A). The U.S. Geological Survey estimates NPR-A could contain 336 million to 1,707 million barrels of recoverable oil and 31 to 77.5 trillion cubic feet of recoverable natural gas.  

“The National Petroleum Reserve serves a critical role in both our energy and national security,” said Zinke’s May 31 press release. “This is land that was set up with the sole intention of oil and gas production, however years of politics over policy put roughly half of the NPR-A off-limits.

“Using this land for its original intent will create good paying jobs and revenue for our Northern-most city and strengthen our energy and national security,” Zinke said in the statement.

‘A Refreshing Change’

Thomas Pyle, president of the Institute for Energy Research, says Zinke’s actions contrast sharply with the Obama administration’s treatment of the federal oil reserves in Alaska.

“The Trump administration is a refreshing change from the lip service the Obama administration paid to oil production in Alaska while erecting so many hoops and barriers getting those resources out of the ground became cost-prohibitive,” Pyle said. “Alaska’s oil reserves are vital strategic and economic assets for the United States.

“We have plenty of oil and gas and coal resources in Alaska, but for the longest time, because of the lack of political will, we’ve refused to allow Alaskans to access their own energy resources,” said Pyle.

Dave Harbour, publisher of Northern Gas Pipelines, says the Trump administration seems to be correctly following the law under which Alaska gained statehood.

“The current administration seems intent on conforming to the spirit of acts of Congress and to the rule of law in general,” Harbour said. “Alaska’s Constitution and the 1959 Statehood Act recognized natural resource development as critical to the state.

“That compact between the state and federal government has been violated by the federal government,” said Harbour. “Zinke’s recent order is welcome news to Alaska and will have a positive impact on jobs throughout America, energy independence, and national defense.”

Benefits in the Pipeline

Another benefit of Zinke’s decision, says Pyle, is it will help ensure the Trans-Alaskan Pipeline will continue operating.

“The pipeline is a vital national security asset for us, but because of its charter, if it becomes no longer cost-effective or profitable, the law says it has to shut down,” Pyle said. “Also, if we stop putting oil and resources into the pipeline, we could also be forced to shut it down.

“Opening NPR-A for new oil and gas operations will produce jobs for Alaskans, produce revenue for the state of Alaska and the federal government, and keep the Trans-Alaskan pipeline operational,” said Pyle. “So oil production is a win-win for Alaskans and America as a whole.”

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