Posted March 20, 2017
- An area the size of a metropolitan airport within the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR) is estimated to hold between 4.3 billion and 11.8 billion barrels of oil – though that assessment is nearly two decades old. At the high end, that’s more than 10 times the oil Texas produced in 2016.
- The U.S. Geological Survey estimates the National Petroleum Reserve-Alaska, which spans 23 million acres and is the largest single block of federally managed land in the U.S., holds 895 million barrels of oil and 53 trillion cubic feet of natural gas – more than 10 times the natural gas Pennsylvania produced in 2016.
- Together, the Beaufort and Chukchi seas may hold 23.6 billion barrels of oil and 104.4 trillion cubic feet of natural gas. Last fall, 6 billion barrels of oil were discovered in Alaska’s Smith Bay, which neighbors the Beaufort Sea. An estimated 30 percent of our country’s known, recoverable offshore reserves are in Alaskan waters.
- Even though its output has been declining, Alaska’s North Slope still produced 173 million barrels of oil in 2016.
Two points. First, by their sheer size, Alaska’s oil and natural gas reserves are strategically vital to U.S. energy security. Second, all of the above is just an academic exercise without access to develop those reserves. With new leadership and a new view of U.S. energy in Washington, there is great opportunity. It will require changing a number of policies and clearing away obstacles to safe and technologically sound development. U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski of Alaska:
“To forsake Alaska oil and gas will be to forsake America’s energy security in a world that is using more energy, not less. It will leave us an economic and environmental disadvantage. … It will result in fewer jobs created here at home, fewer dollars staying within our economy, less affordable energy for our families and businesses and less influence for our nation on the world stage.”
Alaskans overwhelmingly support Arctic development (76 percent), according to a survey conducted last fall. Among self-identified Native respondents, 72 percent said they support offshore resource development, and 79 percent said they believe their opinions on the issue should matter most. Richard Glenn, executive vice president for Lands and Natural Resources of Arctic Slope Regional Corporation, which represents the business interests of about 12,000 Arctic Slope Iñupiat, in congressional testimony:
“The development of Arctic oil and gas resources provides our communities with the means to preserve our traditional way of life and culture while also allowing our residents to enjoy a greater quality of life. Put another way, our communities cannot survive without continued resource development in our region.”
Time must not be wasted. Offshore development in the Arctic has a long timeline, and other nations, including Russia, Canada and Norway, already are actively exploring the Arctic. Military leaders urge Arctic development:
“Arctic offshore energy development will occur, whether or not the U.S. participates, as other countries pursue the Arctic’s large energy resources to meet long-term energy needs.”
As we say, there’s great opportunity to responsibly develop Alaska’s great oil and natural gas resources. This should be guided by a forward-thinking regulatory framework that prioritizes regularly scheduled lease sales as necessary to enhance U.S. energy security and maintain America’s position as a global energy superpower.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Mark Green joins API after spending 16 years as national editorial writer in the Washington Bureau of The Oklahoman newspaper. In all, he has been a reporter and editor for more than 30 years, including six years as sports editor at The Washington Times. He lives in Occoquan, Virginia, with his wife Pamela. Mark graduated from the University of Oklahoma with a degree in journalism and earned a masters in journalism and public affairs at American University. He's currently working on a masters in history at George Mason University, where he also teaches as an adjunct professor in the Communication Department.