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Empire Editorial: Congress: Don't restrict Alaska's right to export natural gas

Posted: March 22, 2012 - 12:08am

Alaska is revving-up its economic engines to develop natural gas pipelines that would export gas from the North Slope or Cook Inlet, but here comes U.S. Rep. Ed Markey with some sugar for the gas tank.

Markey is sponsoring two toxic bills aimed at barring Alaska from sending any domestically-produced natural gas into foreign markets.

Our hands are already tied by the federal government’s massively inefficient permitting procedures for oil and gas development and exploration, so the East Coast congressman wishes to tie our feet as well.

Markey has done some great work on the environmental front, but the Democratic lion has also gained a well-earned reputation as the malfunctioning air raid siren of the environmental movement. He sounds off on just about everything. His current project is restricting Alaska’s natural gas exports.

As the ranking Democrat on the Natural Resources Committee, he’s in a position to do a lot of damage to Alaska’s economy, an economy already restricted and regulated in a state where the natural resources are on or under ground treated by the feds as park land.

His press release proudly states that one bill mandates “that any natural gas extracted from taxpayer-owned federal lands would have to be resold to American consumers. The other bill would prevent the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission from approving new terminals that would export domestic natural gas.”

Then comes the part that sounds like it was written for the satirical publication “The Onion.”

“When we bought Alaska from the Russians for only $7 million, we got a great deal,” Markey says in his press release. “If America now turns around and allows the big oil companies to sell off America’s natural gas resources in Alaska and elsewhere to the Chinese, Uncle Sam really would deserve to be called Uncle Sucker.”

“This is America’s natural gas, not BP’s and certainly not China’s,” Markey continued. “If we export America’s natural gas to China, we might as well export our manufacturing jobs with it.”

Huh? The pipelines needed would create manufacturing and construction jobs, as well as food service and other support jobs for the crews.

Markey sees natural gas as the necessary tool to rebuild America’s manufacturing and steel industries. Yet he isn’t proposing a pipeline through Canada to bring it to the East Coast, Midwest or anywhere else.

Following Markey’s line of paranoid logic, coal from America should have to stay in America, as should wood from American trees and lime and other construction-grade materials harvested from American ground. Other countries could be our enemies, and they want to steal our stuff.

Further following this line of reasoning, America would do well to stop trading with economies like China. And with those pesky Russians. The Canadians are getting a little uppity, too, developing vast natural resources. Perhaps a bill restricting the import of Canadian products derived from tar sands would put another nail in our national economy’s coffin.

Well, Rep. Markey, America bought Alaska from the Russians, but it isn’t a city park.

Alaska is one of our 50 states and its residents have a right to develop a strong economy from the resources we can legally and safely harvest, even if that means partnering with big, bad oil companies Markey seems to loathe.

There is far too much paternalism, as well as xenophobia and economic isolationism, in Markey’s words, and absolutely no economic and national security logic in his bills.

Alaska is not and should not be America’s natural resource piggy bank.

We’re a thriving, growing state, and we need tools to get our clean-burning natural gas to market — wherever that market may be as long as the buyer can legally buy American products.

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