Obama Admin Officials Express Support for Arctic Oil & Gas Development
Atlantic Council event sees widespread backing for Arctic’s inclusion in Five-Year Offshore Leasing Plan
Washington D.C., October 25: Obama Administration officials and former leaders of U.S. Armed Forces expressed support for Arctic oil and gas development at an Atlantic Council event on Geopolitics, Security, and Energy in the Arctic, sponsored by the Arctic Energy Center, yesterday afternoon.
Amy Pope, Vice Chair of the White House Arctic Executive Steering Committee and Deputy Homeland Security Advisor and Deputy Assistant to the President in the White House National Security Council, said the Arctic will “likely continue to provide valuable supplies to meet U.S. energy needs into the future,” and that “responsibly developing Arctic oil and gas resources aligns with United States’ ‘all-of-the-above’ approach to developing domestic energy resources."
Admiral Robert Papp, the State Department’s Special Representative for the Arctic and former Commandant of the Coast Guard, backed the region’s inclusion in the Administration’s offshore oil and gas leasing program: “I personally agree with all our Alaskan friends who have been here. We have to maintain our options [by including the Arctic]. And I think that somehow encouraging further development is important, simply because we are going to be dependent upon petroleum and gas for a long time.”
The comments come as the Department of Interior prepares to announce its 2017-2022 Outer Continental Shelf Oil and Gas Leasing Program later this year. At present, two Arctic sales are included in the plan (the Beaufort Sea in 2020 and the Chukchi Sea 2022), but they are targeted by an aggressive campaign by environmental activist groups to pressure the Administration into canceling the sales and banning drilling in the Arctic permanently.
During the event, Ms. Pope stressed that consultation with Alaska Native and indigenous communities is a “core principle of our national strategy for the Arctic region” and “absolutely paramount to a successful approach in the region.”
North Slope leaders have repeatedly spoken in favor of offshore development in Arctic waters. Earlier this week, Arctic Iñupiat Offshore (AIO), a joint venture of organizations that collectively represent around 13,000 Iñupiat people, announced that it was joining the Arctic Coalition, a national campaign to urge the Obama Administration to include the Arctic in the forthcoming leasing plan. As a part of that announcement, AIO also unveiled a six-figure advertising campaign highlighting Native support for development.
Ms. Pope also argued that increased human activity in the Arctic “requires the United States to assert a more active and effective national presence to protect its Arctic interests” in order to “to maintain the open seas necessary for global commerce, scientific research, to allow for search-and-rescue capabilities, ultimately to provide for regional peace and stability.”
Asserting a greater presence in the Arctic will be made more challenging by America’s current lack of infrastructure and development in the region. As Adm. Papp noted, “Whether you’re talking about energy security or any other form of security in the Arctic, you need to have the infrastructure in place … Right now, we don’t have a forward operating base, a deep water port up there. There’s no fiber optic cable for communications up in the area right now. Airfields could use expansion and increased capabilities for servicing aircrafts. The nearest Coast Guard air station is 800 miles away.”
During the event, numerous former military leaders and security experts argued that developing offshore energy resources in the Arctic is critical to securing America’s interests and establishing the infrastructure needed in the Arctic. The speakers included former Vice Commandant of the Coast Guard and former Deputy Secretary of the Department of Transportation Adm. Thomas Barrett, former Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense Rear Adm. Donald Loren, former Lt. Gov. of Alaska Mead Treadwell, former NATO Supreme Allied Commander Gen. Joseph Ralston and former Coast Guard Commandant Adm. James Loy.
Notes and Excerpts
A recording of the event will be available on the Arctic Energy Center website later today.
Extended excerpts from the discussion are included below:
“National policy requires the United States to assert a more active and effective national presence to protect its Arctic interests, and project sea power into the region. We must be prepared to operate independently in the region to provide for maritime security, maritime domain awareness, and freedom of the seas. That’s why the president has proposed to accelerate the acquisition of a replacement heavy icebreaker from 2020 to 2022 and has called for planning for additional icebreakers.”
“… we will continue consultation with Alaskan Native and Indigenous communities. This is a core principal of our national strategy for the Arctic region. The Arctic Executive Steering Committee is charged to maximize transparency and promote collaboration with the state of Alaska, Alaskan Native tribal governments, Alaska Native governments, and Indigenous communities. This consultation is absolutely paramount to a successful approach in the region.”
“And on the specific question of energy security, our strategy recognizes that the region holds sizable proved and potential oil and natural gas resources that will likely continue to provide valuable supplies to meet U.S. energy needs into the future. But responsibly developing Arctic oil and gas resources aligns with United States’ ‘all-of-the-above’ approach to developing domestic energy resources, whether it’s renewables, expanding oil and gas production, increasing efficiency and conservation efforts to reduce our reliance on imported oil and strengthening our nation’s energy security.”
Admiral Robert Papp
“I would say, I personally agree with all our Alaskan friends who have been here. We have to maintain our options. And I think that somehow encouraging further development is important, simply because we are going to be dependent upon petroleum and gas for a long time.”
“Whether you’re talking about energy security or any other form of security in the Arctic, you need to have the infrastructure in place. Right now we have don’t a forward operating base, a deep water port up there. There’s no fiber optic cable for communications up in the area right now. Airfields could use expansion and increased capabilities for servicing aircrafts. The nearest Coast Guard air station is 800 miles away.”
“… when Shell made the announcement that they were leaving – I was actually up there for the Arctic Energy Summit being held in Fairbanks, and at midnight before the summit the announcement was made and the moderator of the first session actually called for a moment of silence. I mean that’s how much the impact was. We looked at Shell, in fact the Coast Guard used Shell as an example of why we needed to move ahead in terms of having proper infrastructure in Alaska, to be ready to respond. I would say, for me those concerns have not gone away.”
Admiral Thomas Barrett
“It’s been transformative for Alaska’s economy and instrumental to national security. So one-third of Alaskan jobs are tied to oil. Alaska Native corporations … are major players in the state economically. Fundamentally, it’s good, sound infrastructure that there is no easy replacement for.”
“We’re challenged because we have less drilling. I know it’s counterintuitive – we used to do as much as 2.1 million barrels a day; now we are moving about 500,000 barrels. Kind of like the red light on your car, ‘add oil to your engine,’ is on: That’s where we are. Its water and wax, moving less oil through that line, in an Arctic environment … it’s a significant challenge.”
“But long-term, the best reason for us and the infrastructure is more oil. The oil is there, and the gas is there. So onshore, near shore, offshore Alaska, fundamentally 13 percent … of the world’s undiscovered oil resources are there. One-third of U.S. resources are in the Arctic. … And the U.S. will need that resource for many, many years to come. … The ability to explore, to help produce, and to move safely is there.”
Rear Admiral Donald Loren
“Military leaders and diplomats and national security experts recognize the geostrategic importance of the Arctic and our Arctic energy resources to our national security strategy as a whole. We understand that we possess vast untapped sources of oil and natural gas in the area and that the investments made in developing these resources could extend to investments in ports, personnel and infrastructure necessary to maintain a strong presence in the Arctic region.”
“We must send a signal to the other Arctic nations and the world that we want to maintain our position as a global energy leader, as a nation that must protect our interests in an increasingly strategic region of our world.”
“Developing Alaska oil and natural gas resources not only protects our interests in the Arctic, but will also provide us the energy security and flexibility to further reduce our reliance on adversarial nations.”
“Our leaders are in a position today that can move us to a path of greater security by allowing the responsible development of our Arctic energy resources. They could demonstrate that America is serious about our position as a leader of the Arctic nations and as a global economic and energy superpower, and as chair of the Arctic Council. Or they could adopt policies that move us away, that slow, or halt, future Arctic energy development.”
Former Lt. Gov. of Alaska Mead Treadwell
“[TAPS] is the largest single private investment in the United States, and it would be a bloody shame and a stupid decision by the United States not to keep that pipeline full and not to use the existing resources that we spent hundreds of billions of dollars a year to maintain and update to produce energy for our nation.”
“The 6 coastal states in the Arctic are all doing some form of offshore exploration and development and the United States should lead there. … This is a place where the technology that is needed in the Arctic, America has been leading with. And to leave the Chukchi Sea off the list, to minimize what’s in the Beaufort Sea on the list, for other reasons, in my mind, is not the right thing to do. Other nations will go ahead. Russia clearly will. …. I don’t think it makes a hair’s worth of sense for America to retreat in the Arctic and retreat on what oil might be used. … We should not be retreating from the Arctic; we should be engaging in the Arctic and paying great close attention to that resource frontier.”
General Joseph Ralston
“We’ve got to put more oil into that pipeline. If that pipeline shuts down, the Alaska economy is going to really be in trouble, and all the Costcos, the Sam’s Clubs, the Walmarts that are there today to keep the cost of living for our soldiers, sailors, airmen and marines under control is going to get very, very expensive. … So we’ve got to get the economic investments and infrastructure… back to the leasing in the Chukchi Sea and the Beaufort Sea, we need to keep those options alive.”
Admiral James Loy
“We can firmly say that access and science remain legitimate concerns for our country, that national security issues are now very real and getting more serious as days and weeks and months go by, and that we seem to be falling further behind … and that we hamstring ourselves with our own decisions, and to step back a step further would, I think, put us in even more jeopardy than is the case today.”
“Other nations have proven their ability to be very aggressive, the resource exploitation is actually going to happen in the Arctic whether it happens with the U.S. as a participant, wherein … the technical expertise with regard to safety and response is very much a peek of what the U.S. has the capability to do and do well.”
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