Opinions

Thank goodness for Southcentral Alaska’s natural gas reserves

downtown, downtown anchorage, point woronzof, woronzof

No matter how simple it is, some people just don’t want to get it.

Take a recent commentary in this paper, extolling the virtues of halting additional natural gas development in Cook Inlet.

The leave-it-in-the-ground mentality of some in our state would harm already suffering Alaskan household budgets. Alaska’s higher-than-national-average energy costs are only as low as they are in Southcentral Alaska because of the abundance of natural gas. Why some would advocate to squander this advantage — and force a transition to ‘green’ energy through renewables — makes zero sense.

According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, only 30% of Alaska’s entire energy mix comes from ‘green’ sources presently, and 90% of that comes from hydropower found primarily throughout Southeast Alaska. That leaves approximately 3% of our state’s current grid production coming from wind, solar, tidal and other renewables.

In Anchorage, one can look across the Inlet and see the Fire Island wind turbines. When the wind blows and the blades produce electricity, it helps diversify our energy solutions. However, it comes with a cost: We pay a subsidy for Fire Island on our monthly bills — a subsidy that isn’t unique to Alaska. In fact, wind subsidies across the U.S. from the early 1990s to the mid-2010s exceeded $30 billion — and produced less than 4% of the U.S.’s energy mix during that time.

Disallowing the opportunity for producers to explore for — and ultimately safely and responsibly develop — additional gas reserves in Cook Inlet would raise the risk of energy shortages, rolling blackouts and higher energy costs in the future. For those who think I am being dramatic, just look across the Atlantic Ocean to our allies throughout Western Europe.

European Union countries have embraced the ‘green’ energy movement much more rapidly than we have in America, and as a result, are dealing with drastic energy shortages, near-guaranteed blackouts, natural gas prices that are up a shocking 471% from a year ago and immense political pressure to do something to resolve the angst their citizens are feeling as winter approaches.

Some European countries are even allowing Russia to exert increased influence over them because they can’t meet their own energy needs. Russia, like China, has no problems whatsoever with using that leverage, and is already exerting tremendous political pressure, using their Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline as the lever, on both Germany and the Ukraine. Those countries are quickly finding out that giving up control of energy sourcing and supply is a hair-raising and unintelligent exercise.

Back to Alaska and the half-cooked transition away from natural gas. Lest we forget, Cook Inletkeeper — one of Alaska’s most vocal ‘leave-it-in-the-ground’ promoters — is also an organization that vehemently fought against a hydro project that would have been able to produce almost 50% of Southcentral Alaska’s electricity needs had it been built.

Alaska Public Interest Research Group — another group calling for an accelerated transition — has been a voice in the wilderness against Hilcorp’s increased investment in Alaska, even though BP’s exit without finding a buyer with Hilcorp’s initiative and expertise would have been catastrophic for thousands of Alaskan families, hundreds of nonprofit groups and service organizations and cost our state billions of dollars in lost revenues and royalties.

Since taking office, President Joe Biden has been adversarial to Alaska’s best interests: shutting down ANWR development, gutting the hopes of a road between Cold Bay and King Cove and the safety it would give King Cove’s citizens, reinstating the “Roadless Rule”, which will lead to threats of poor forest and timber management practices in the Tongass National Forest, and failing to follow through on support for the Willow development in the NPR-A.

Each of those attacks have cost Alaska in the short- and long-term ability to live, work and play in the most amazing state in the country.

Alaska has a bright future, with hundreds of years of coal, gas, oil and other extractive opportunities that will keep us employed, our state and local coffers filled and our Permanent Fund able to spin off an annual dividend.

We just need rational, reasonable and prudent Alaskans to join us keep our future bright, rather than be dimmed by an insignificant and vocal minority who would have us pay more for less reliability with our energy supplies, and enrich China, Russia and the Taliban in our jobs and supply chains, instead of America.

Rick Whitbeck is the Alaska State Director of Power The Future, a national nonprofit organization that advocates for American energy jobs. Contact him at rick@powerthefuture.com and follow him on Twitter @PTFAlaska.

The views expressed here are the writer’s and are not necessarily endorsed by the Anchorage Daily News, which welcomes a broad range of viewpoints. To submit a piece for consideration, email commentary(at)adn.com. Send submissions shorter than 200 words to letters@adn.com or click here to submit via any web browser. Read our full guidelines for letters and commentaries here.

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