Climate change: Stop punishing the Arctic

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By PAUL FUHS

It’s become very fashionable lately for politicians and ‘environmental’ groups to advocate against resource development in the Arctic, supposedly in the name of climate change.

This includes cancelling oil and gas leases, discrimination by banks against Arctic oil and gas projects, calls for huge wilderness designations and boycotts against shipping on the Northern Sea Route.

Do these measures make sense and do they do anything to respond to climate change?  The answer is no.  A well-intentioned effort can still be completely misguided.

Think about it:  Shutting down oil and gas production in the Arctic will not result in even one drop less oil being burned. None. It will just be produced somewhere else, like the Alberta tar sands or Venezuelan heavy oil. Is that what we want?

The current estimate of available oil from world proven reserves is 53 years. This does not include unproven reserves or new production technologies. The US International Energy Agency predicts that by 2050, the world will still be 70 percent dependent on fossil fuels. Arctic oil and gas development can help meet this obvious need.

Although the anti Arctic development campaigns claim they are “saving the people of the Arctic,” stopping oil and gas development will only add to the impacts we are already experiencing from climate change by destroying our economies.

Arctic economies, and certainly Alaska’s economy, are highly dependent on resource development. This fact is lost upon the vast urban populations of the U.S. that don’t have any idea where their resources come from. Gasoline just comes out of the pump. Electricity just comes out of the plug in the wall as you turn on your air conditioning.  Products based on mining and timber just magically appear on the shelves of the vast big box stores.

This disconnect is exploited by politicians and by groups pleading for funding from these resource-alienated urban masses. The same goes with the major banks discriminating against the Arctic in their public relations efforts to greenwash themselves. And this while they continue to finance coal and heavy oil production elsewhere.

Likewise, we have the politicians with their virtue signaling decisions like cancelling Arctic oil and gas leases and pipelines across the US.  

The Keystone Pipeline is an excellent case in misguided, but politically expedient, policy. Besides eliminating thousands of working class jobs, cancelling the pipeline will just mean that the oil will be transported by truck or rail, much riskier than a pipeline.  Saving the planet?  Or trading substance for symbols?

In the meantime, the politicians are supporting biomass energy as “green energy.”  This involves cutting down the forests and burning wood pellets which produces more CO2 than coal.

I wonder if our new President Joe Biden and his eager staff have thought about this? If the president really wanted to do something to reduce consumption of oil and gas, he would shut down all the electrical generating plants in his own state of Delaware, which are 70% fossil fuel. (the rest being nuclear).  That would actually do something to reduce CO2 emissions.  

It’s also not going to happen for practical and political reasons. No, it’s much easier to attack the Arctic with our small population.

Climate change is a global consumption problem, not an Arctic production problem.  It’s not the four million people producing oil in the Arctic, it’s the seven billion people in the rest of the world and growing demand, especially in developing nations who strive for the American standard of living. It’s not right to blame them either. These people have rights as well, and we identify with them.

We are not blind to climate issues and deal with them daily as the Arctic warms up.  We support renewable energy when it is practical and that’s not just talk.  We have used our oil money in Alaska to invest heavily in renewable energy sources such as hydroelectric, wind and solar.  We wouldn’t have been able to do that without producing our oil and gas.  We are not sitting on our hands with regard to reducing our own consumption.  Among the states, Alaska is one of the lowest emitters of CO2.

It’s wrong to blame the Arctic and discriminate against us for a problem that is your own. We have the right to continue providing critical resources to our country and the world, while supporting our working class people and our economy.  If you want to look for a solution to climate change, you might want to look into your own backyard.  Or a mirror.

Paul Fuhs is a former mayor of Dutch Harbor, home of The Deadliest Catch, and former commissioner of Commerce and Economic Development for Alaska. 

15 COMMENTS

  1. Paul, you failed to mention the big winner by shutting down Keystone: Biden mega-donor Warren Buffett, who owns the railroad that carries the oil. It’s not about the environment, it’s about political payoff and backslapping. Same with the ‘renewable’ energy-follow the dollars and the little guy pays.

  2. Great article … one extra thought. This morning here in Tok, woke up to -35F. April 10th! It’s been a very cold spring here in the Interior and I would love to here from the proponents of global warming as to why that is. Bet they wouldn’t venture a guess that maybe the climate is cyclical or that it changes from season to season. But I bet they won’t even comment on the very touchy subject of a mini-ice age or perhaps sun-spot activity or lack thereof. Science has proven that the absence of sun-spot activity LOWERS temperatures. And when the temperature drops, the snow and ice stay longer. You can guess the rest. So when the new ice age starts descending upon us, the only thing that will heat our homes will be the oil that comes out of the ground.

  3. Okay, so why not leave it in the ground if “we’re going to need it later”?

    I’ma student of history. I’m looking back over the last 100 years and am coming to the conclusion that you guys simply didn’t exercise any restraint or foresight, and you are not going to start today. Not for Alaska, and not for Tok. Unlike the other end of the pipeline, you guys are relatively broke and desperate, I get it. But the fact is no amount of whining is going to get people to pull out their wallets and pay you for something they don’t want. From my perspective, down here in the lower 48, sure, there still is a lot of fossil fuel use. And people seem willing to pay $3.95 a gallon to burn it. What is the difference if you guys stopped pumping? You imply it in the article: it isn’t going to make a difference. The production as a percentage of the total demand just isn’t that significant. For myself, I’d be happy slapping a $3.95 tax on top of the $3.95 to get people to drive less. All I care about is people driving less. Because, unlike you guys up there with your fresh air, I live in a city where the sunlight mixes with the unburnt hydrocarbons, and creates ozone. Oh, and the tires stir up 50 years worth of dust- which is an accumulation of bits of disintigrated tires, and the other stuff they used hydrocarbons to make- now in its “micro” form- microplastics. I could use less of that too. Are you guys starting to get the picture? You need us, we don’t need you. You can’t make ends meet? Tough. When I can’t make ends meet I have to find a new place to live, and a new job. What makes you so special up there, is Santa Claus sprinkling you guys with magic fairy dust? I’m sorry you messed up buying land in a place no one cares about 100s of miles from the nearest viable source of income. Its bootstrap time guys but you are lucky in many ways, technical skills, and now there is 3-d printing, the internet, and other tech to figure out how to get along, getting along.

  4. I know the folks in Phoenix hope that it cools down.

    The temps in Phoenix reached or exceeded a 110 degrees for 53 days in 2020. It was the hottest summer on record since records were started being kept in 1898.

    The predication that by 2040 the temps in Phoenix will exceed 105 degree’s for a hundred days per year.

    But I am sure not much changes in Tok.

  5. SURF, And I don’t force you to live in the city under those horrible conditions. So tax yourself 1,000% tax and clean up the sh!thole of your own making and live how you want! But this is still kind of a free country so don’t impose your hippie lifestyle on me! I still produce something rather than live in a completely artificial environment totally dependent upon the (slave) labors that you demand.

  6. The problem Harbor with your claims is that you only go back a little over 100 years. “Real” climatologists, geologists, and other scholars look back to the thousands of years to get a clear picture. The earth has proven cycles of heating and cooling, you just need to look at geologic time frames and not what happened two minutes ago. Hey Surf, its not our fault you’ve chosen to live in a filthy, dirty city. Talk to your elected leaders and don’t blame us.

  7. HARBORGUY, people choose to live in Tok and people choose to live in Phoenix. Global warming has been happening for 10,000 years (thankfully) since the last Ice Age. Want to go back? And hopefully it will continue-maybe in another 10,000 years we can trade Florida for Siberia and Antarctica. The history of the Earth is continuous climate change. During the Middle Ages (c. 1000 AD) climate was as warm as they predict under their cataclysmic predictions for the next century, and Vikings grew barley on Greenland. And incidentally, the warming helped bring us out of the Dark Ages (cooling) and into the Renaissance as populations could expand with more time to innovate and create than just barely survive. Climate change is continuous and the adaptive survive while the hysterical wring their paws and go extinct. Life is a bitch, adapt or die.

  8. To SURF … the technological advances that’ve been made benefit us all. We Alaskans have been in the forefront of some of those to reduce our carbon footprint more than you know. It does get some press from time to time, but probably not down in the Lower 48. Most of us know that the fossil fuels won’t last forever, but we’re betting on those technological advances to find an alternative that will replace oil and gas. However, in the meantime we still have colder temperatures and what’s going to replace the lubricants that are derived from petroleum? Ever try to start anything in -50F temperatures? I’m not talking vehicles … electrical equipment suffers greatly in very cold temperatures. I’m thinking you could care less about us as about as much as we could care less about your whinny butt down there.
    You’re the one crying about vehicular traffic so ride a friggin bike and go squeeze a tree or a bunny, that might calm you down a bit …

  9. Right on the money. Bankrupting our country in the name of “climate change” is pure idiocy.

  10. SURF, consider the following contradictory statements you strung together, “But the fact is no amount of whining is going to get people to pull out their wallets and pay you for something they don’t want. From my perspective, down here in the lower 48, sure, there still is a lot of fossil fuel use.”
    .
    The fact is, people do want to buy Alaskan oil. Its the government interfering in the market that is shutting down production by rescinding and denying permits to drill, explore, or expand. The problem is not economic but political.

  11. Very few Americans can afford a $3.95 extra, sin tax on gasoline and those that can (other than SURF), would protest loudly. If You are concerned about cleaning up the city where you live, think Natural Gas Vehicles.

    NG vehicles would clean the air overnight and we wouldn’t need to import natural gas.

    Natural Gas powered vehicles are cleaner and cheaper than electric vehicles(think batteries).

    Also, NG vehicles don’t put a drain on the USA’s already stressed electrical grid(think California). Factually, subsidized solar and wind can never produce enough electricity to overcome the drain even if the country was covered with wind turbines and solar panels.

  12. The joke with electric vehicles (EV’S) is that many people seem to think that electricity is free energy. WRONG. Nothing could be farther from the truth. Most electricity comes from burning fossil fuels. An EV that is close to needing a full charge takes about 1 1/2 hours to fully charge (compared to the 10-15 minutes at a gas pump).

  13. The EnviroNazis don’t campaign in 3rd world countries because the poor people there don’t have money to DONATE.
    The EnviroNazis don’t campaign in communist countries because they would end up in prison, like those Greenpeace clowns did a few years ago.
    The EnviroNazis campaign only in free, wealthy countries because it’s all about DONATIONS. Environment, global warming, climate change … it’s all about the money, nothing else.
    There should be a law forbidding government agencies from settling NGO civil suits. “Sue and Settle” has just encouraged them.

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