Well, we're a week deep into 2018 and this year is already revealing mysteries to me. For instance, if your local ermine finds a turkey carcass waiting for a crab pot, it will crawl inside and tryptophan does affect it. This is information you may or may not need in the months ahead, but a turkey drunk ermine is really adorable.
This week, the Trump administration blew the doors off regulation of offshore oil and gas drilling. Finally! The oppressed global giants now can plop their oil rigs off the coast of Oregon, Virginia, Massachusetts and anywhere else. What could possibly go wrong? I mean, other than a few oil spills?
As of last Monday, the oil companies also got a pretty sweet tax break. I don't mean the one Alaska is still operating under, but a federal tax to fund cleanups. To be clear, it's more than a "break." They don't have to pay it at all anymore because Congress let it, very quietly, expire. Some history. Originally, under Ronald Reagan, an account was set up in 1986 to address oil spills, but there wasn't much urgency behind funding it. In 1989, the Exxon Valdez gave Alaska the opportunity to learn it really is impossible to clean up an oil spill and the money started rolling in. It was named the Oil Spill Liability Trust Fund. It didn't seem too complicated. For every barrel of domestic or imported oil or crude sold in the United States, the fund earned nine cents. NINE CENTS. Whoopie do! CFOs could shake that out of the couch cushions on their corporate jets. This fund was to help local economies and rehabilitation of wildlife when oil spills occur — and it has. In 2005, during the Bush years that make us almost nostalgic, the fund was reauthorized.
The U.S. Coast Guard has access to the fund immediately after a spill. (By the way, thanks for finding those missing hunters in Prince William Sound this week, Coast Guard heroes!) While the fund currently has $5 billion in it, oil spills aren't cheap and if both our coasts are going to be open to drill rigs, well, that money may run out pretty quickly.
Oh, I'm not alone in my distrust of oil companies and their safety records. That aside, how does the new ruling affect our sweet Alaska? How are we special any more? I'm not an oil executive, I'm just a girl from Homer, but I can't imagine I'd rather go to the Arctic to drill when there are more hospitable areas now open that are way closer to market. What's the attraction of deflowering ANWR other than to make a bunch of environmentalists sad? That might be enough for some pro-extraction folks, but if it's going to cost more to develop than other places you hadn't even dreamed of yet, you're not going to do it.
What about all that gas up there on the Slope? Aren't we supposed to get a gas line at some point? The Russians have opened two LNG plants in the Sakhalin Island area and one in Vladivostok. They are so close to Japan, Sakhalin Island used to be part of Japan — WWII settled that one for the Russians. It's right there!
Since America has stepped out of the lineup of nations leading the way, China is slowly filling in the vacuum that's been created. They have announced the world's biggest carbon tax exchange market. At the same time they have elevated President Xi Jinping to Mao Zedong status. He can make things happen fast and has the support of his country.
Norway, you know, the country that has super-sized their oil permanent fund to almost a trillion dollars, is talking about divesting their portfolio of fossil fuels. They actually own an oil company. Why? Because climate change is like gravity; it's real, even if you don't believe in it. The future is in renewable energy.
Oh, I wish that how these global forces will affect Alaska's economy, our lives, our neighbor's lives, were as obvious or as cute as ermines tripping on turkey. It's time to start kicking around ideas for Alaska that are beyond the oil and gas market. It's past time to elect leadership that sees us as more than an oil pump for their campaign contributors.
Shannyn Moore is a radio broadcaster.
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