OPINION: If we want true national security, we need more renewable energy

While I join with those who condemn the deadly horrific attack on Ukraine by Vladimir Putin, the war in Ukraine does not justify more fossil fuel development. If anything, the concern about energy security and independence justifies more locally produced renewable energy and rapid electrification of the transportation sector. Putin’s precipitous actions underscore the need to get off oil and gas, not prime the pump for decades of more fossil fuel price volatility. Nonetheless, Alaska’s political leaders are pitching that Putin’s war creates the necessity to build the Alaska Gasline and open the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to oil and gas development.

Here’s Gov. Mike Dunleavy’s response to President Biden’s State of the Union remarks on the invasion of Ukraine quoted directly from his press release: “It is time to unleash America’s might in Alaska’s tremendous resources to counter this move by Putin and other nations, hostile to this country and our allies. This is how we will achieve energy security quicker than any other way. Let’s get the Alaska Gasline built.”

Please note, there is no mention that it would take at least 10 years to construct the pipeline and the LNG terminal. How does a decade-long project become “quicker than any other way?”

In a recent letter signed by Sen. Dan Sullivan and 22 other Republican senators, opening up the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge is No. 3 on a list of 12 specific actions to address the current, war-caused disruption in the American energy sector. Here too, the 10-year timeline is missing. The letter also fails to recognize that when the ANWR leases were open for bidding under the Trump administration, no major oil company showed up. Knowing this, how does opening up the Refuge “provide meaningful support to our allies who are struggling to meet their energy needs?”

It seems that some leaders don’t want to be bothered by critical details, but building new oil and gas infrastructure won’t help the current crisis one bit. Instead, new oil and gas megaprojects will only deepen global dependence on fossil fuels around the world, further empowering Putin and damaging the climate.

In a Department of Defense “Climate Risk Analysis” sent last fall to the National Security Council, the Pentagon found that climate change is exacerbating security risks for the U.S. and the world. Consequently, DOD outlined steps to accelerate the deployment of renewable energy. Military leaders aren’t waiting to start addressing the climate crisis and switch to renewable energy, and elected leaders shouldn’t either.

Not only are renewable energy resource technologies increasingly affordable, they can be developed in significantly less time than the decade lead times of the large fossil fuel projects pitched by the Alaska fossil fuel apologists. The latest Annual Energy Outlook from the Energy Information Administration (March 2022) estimates the lead time on large-scale onshore wind projects at three years, offshore wind at four years, utility-scale solar photovoltaic (panels) at 2 years, and battery storage at one year. And rooftop solar can be deployed within a year. Yet, even with these shorter production windows, the expanding clean energy economy was completely absent from the letter signed by 23 Republican senators.


If our political leaders can’t get real about meaningful, timely solutions to the energy disruption of war, they should at least “first, do no harm,” and in this context, the last thing the war in Ukraine could possibly justify would be to abandon our allies on the climate front. To do so as called for in this letter signed by Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell and Sen. Sullivan is a slap in the face to our allies at a time of horrific crisis.

While we recognize that Alaskans are feeling the pain of higher fuel prices, it’s important to point out that prices at the pump were rising before Putin’s aggressive invasion. As discussed in a recent article in Fortune Magazine, rising gas prices are a result of harvesting windfall profits by oil and gas CEOs. Furthermore, a Jan. 3 Oil and Gas Journal editorial noted that the industry has done well under the Biden administration, which so far has approved more U.S. drilling permits per month than the prior administration did in any year except for its last.

Ultimately, to protect the American public from spiking gas prices, we must break our dependence on fossil fuels that are unpredictable, volatile and driving the climate crisis. Rather than developing more fossil fuels, accelerating the transition to renewable energy is the way to achieve true energy security and independence.

Kate Troll, a longtime Alaskan, has more than 22 years’ experience in coastal management, fisheries and energy policy and is a former executive director for United Fishermen of Alaska and the Alaska Conservation Voters. She’s been elected to local office twice, written two books and resides in Douglas.

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.

Kate Troll

Kate Troll, a longtime Alaskan, has over 22 years experience in coastal management, fisheries and energy policy and is a former executive director for United Fishermen of Alaska and the Alaska Conservation Voters. She's been elected to local office twice, written two books and resides in Douglas.