Senator Lisa Murkowski (R, Exxon) announced to the Alaska Legislature last week that President Barack Obama plans to shut down the Trans-Alaska Pipeline. WC can’t make this stuff up.
Walking the same path that former Governor Sean “Captain Zero” Parnell used to scare Alaskans into giving Big Oil $2 billion dollars, she’s trying to frighten Alaskans into some kind of fearful froth in advance of the President’s planned August visit to Alaska. That’s Joe Miller talk, the kind of irresponsible hyperbole that characterized her opposition in the 2010 election. It’s the antithesis of statesmanship; it’s rabble-rousing. In the interests of honesty, let’s parse her reasons for making such an outlandish claim.
She blames the President for not letting Big Oil drill in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. President Obama is hardly the first person to think wilderness is best left as wilderness. Since the Alaska National Interests Land Act (ANILCA) was adopted in President Carter’s administration, at least 20 different Congresses across 40 different sessions have refused to allow oil drilling in the Refuge. Every President not a Republican has refused to allow drilling in the Refuge. Even when the Republicans controlled both Congress and the Executive Branch, the Refuge remained closed to drilling. It’s not even clear that a majority of Americans support drilling in the Refuge. So blaming President Obama might be just the teensiest bit alarmist.
She blames the President for not allowing drilling in NPR-A, the portion of the Arctic Slope west of Prudhoe Bay. That’s simply untrue; i.e., it’s a lie. In fact, there is a management plan in place that allows oil exploration and development in NPR-A. As recently as last week, to the dismay of some envionmentalists, the Obama administration approved construction of a road into part of NPR-A to allow exploration there. Perhaps Senator Murkowaki has an . . . imperfect . . . grasp of the facts and issues? Or perhaps she is simply being a fatuous fearmonger..
She blames the President for not allowing drilling in the Chukchi and Beaufort Seas. And yet as recently as last month the Obama administration released a development plan that would allow drilling in all but a few very small portions of the Chukchi and the Beaufort. Perhaps Senator Murkowski is confusing Shell Oil’s criminal inepttitude in its Arctic Ocean adventures with the President’s unwillingness to abjectly hand the control of federal land to Big Oil. Or the Senator is just fear mongering again.
The very strange part is that in the same speech to the Alaska Legislature, the Senator admitted climate change is happening and that man is to blame.[^1] WC wonders if the Senator has forgotten that the largest single contributor to atmospheric CO2 is crude oil. And that there are 420 kilograms of CO2 in each barrel of crude oil that goes through the Trans-Alaska Pipeline. That the oil problem she’s worried about isn’t the gravest or biggest threat to Alaska. There’s no immediate danger or even a middle term danger we are going to run out of crude oil for TAPS. There is a very serious danger that climate change, and in particular coastal erosion, a rise in sea level and permafrost melt, will cause billions of dollars in damage to Alaska’s infrastructure, an issue that makes throughput in TAPS look trivial by comparison.
Senator Murkowski refuses to recognize – or her campaign contributors refuse to allow her to recognize – that each additional barrel of oil is an economic poison, not a balm. The impact of each of the 513,441 barrels of oil that flow through TAPS each day hits the arctic and Alaska first and hardest.
Senator Murkowski is lying when she says the sky is falling. She’s wrong when she blames the Obama administration for the decline in crude oil in TAPS. Her posturing may play well before the Alaska Legislature, but it is so far out of touch with the realities of the economics of Big Oil and the looming catastrophe of climate change that her comments are pure pandering. We elected her to do better than this; if we’d wanted Joe Miller we’d have voted for Joe Miller.
It’s time for leadership, not pandering. Seriously.
[^1]: Senator Murkowski has flopped around on anthropogenic climate changes like a gaffed halibut. WC wouldn’t expect the thrashing to stop just because “it’s real” this week.