Alaska Resource Development: Keeping the Arctic OCS Open for the Future

While Alaska’s leaders have debated how to address our budget woes, proposed tax increases, changes to the Permanent Fund, and yet another round of oil tax reform, there’s been a quiet effort in Washington to shackle potential future resource development. Washington DC’s Interior Secretary Sally Jewell and the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) recently announced 5-year leases in the Arctic Outer Continental Shelf (OCS) for oil and gas development. Many anti-resource development groups have already pounced on the program in an attempt to close off future leases for Arctic development.

Regardless of current oil prices or aggressive tax plans, Alaska deserves the option to pursue resource development at the very least. Closing off the Arctic to oil and gas production will ruin a longstanding, prosperous relationship between the state and endless economic development opportunities.

Let’s review: 

  • Alaska’s statehood was grounded in the very existence of resource development. Though many doubted it, at the time, natural resource development paved the way for Alaska to join the Union.
    • Arctic OCS represents a third of all US oil and gas reserves alone and is still largely untapped.  It’s perhaps the biggest undeveloped opportunity for Alaska, but some want to lock it away like ANWR.
  • Since its inception, the oil and gas industry has served as the backbone of the state’s economy.
    • 110,000 jobs and $6 billion in total wages.
    • The support industry has grown in parallel to OCS production. A recent UAA study found that roughly 50,000 jobs across the nation would be created annually through OCS production alone.
  • For more than 50 years, the United States has benefited from having the peace of mind that Arctic OCS provides energy security.
    • The proposed cancellation will negate decades of energy dominance in the region and leave Alaska marginalized as other superpowers seize the chance to sway the balance of power.
  • Finally, it’s in our blood. Polls show that the vast majority of Alaskans welcome resource development in the Arctic.

The Alliance believes that we can all agree on the fact that Alaska and OCS development needs to be a part of our future as much as it has been a part of our past.

Alaskans can make our voices heard. The Bureau of Ocean Energy Management is collecting public comments on the draft five-year offshore program until June 16, where we can have a say in our economic future.