This month, we had the opportunity to speak at the Arctic Encounter Symposium, the largest policy gathering in North America of domestic and international Arctic leaders.
Experts from around the world spoke about the impact climate change has on the Arctic region — from melting permafrost and rising sea levels to land erosion and changing wildlife habitats. We heard directly from political leaders, including U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski and Alaska Lt. Gov. Nancy Dahlstrom, Native communities and foreign diplomats about the opportunities Alaska has to offer.
What was clear to us is energy production is critical to Alaska’s economy and way of life. From the time Alaska became a state, it has relied on oil and gas revenues to support its overall economy. In a state where far too many still do not have access to running water and most remote communities rely entirely on diesel generators for electricity and heat, these revenues are the reason many rural communities have basic infrastructure, including electricity, sewer and water, schools and medical facilities. Still, communities throughout the Last Frontier are exploring new ways to embrace clean energy resources, including wind turbines, solar panels, geothermal and small modular nuclear reactors.
Returning home, we are inspired by the unique challenges Alaskans face. In Utah, and other areas of the Lower 48, some rural communities also have difficult weather extremes and a lack of basic infrastructure. Because of these challenges — from Alaska to the American West and the Northeast U.S. — it is unrealistic to expect a clean energy transformation overnight. Instead, we should empower states to do what Alaska has so successfully done for decades: embrace all their energy resources that support jobs and local economies while strengthening our energy security, lowering prices for Americans and reducing global emissions.
It’s critical that members of Congress understand the challenges all rural communities face regarding climate resiliency and energy production, and we are grateful for the opportunity to learn firsthand how commonsense solutions can lead to responsible and sustainable energy, as well as economic prosperity. Too often, Washington, D.C.’s prescriptive policy solutions and regulatory requirements overlook the flexibility needed for diverse communities like those we saw in Alaska to find the needed balance among security, affordability, and sustainability.
On the heels of the U.S. House of Representatives bipartisan passage of the Lower Energy Costs Act — a Republican priority aimed at promoting responsible all-of-the-above energy production in the United States — the conversations at the Arctic Encounter could not have been more timely.
The Conservative Climate Caucus — a group of nearly 80 Republican members of Congress — is working to promote solutions to combat our changing climate and lower global emissions. There may not be a better state that exemplifies the importance of an all-of-the-above energy approach than Alaska.
The U.S. is fortunate to have access to so many resources — from natural gas reserves to critical mineral deposits — domestically available. And American production of energy resources is among the cleanest in the world, so why wouldn’t we want to increase responsible development in Alaska and other states, where communities exemplify the balance between energy production and environmental protection?
Instead of relying on adversarial nations for critical energy resources and foregoing the opportunity to supply cleanly-produced energy resources globally, we should look to the Alaska model when helping to secure our nation’s energy future and continue to mitigate the effects of climate change on local communities and ecosystems throughout the state.
As two people who work to promote bipartisan conversation on national climate and clean energy policy, we understand when it comes to protecting our planet and ensuring we have affordable, reliable energy, there is plenty of disagreement on how to solve climate change. Rather than throwing partisan stones, it is clear Alaska communities work together to meet the challenges they face — an example we should all follow.
Rep. John Curtis represents Utah’s 3rd Congressional District and serves as Chairman of the Conservative Climate Caucus. Heather Reams is president of Citizens for Responsible Energy Solutions (CRES).
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