Alaska editorial: Alaska's falling oil output is nothing to cheer

This editorial first appeared in the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner:


Sure, it’s just numbers and a ranking. Who cares that Alaska has fallen behind North Dakota on the list of states producing the most barrels of oil per day?

Alaskans should care, that’s who.

We’re no longer the most popular person at the ball. Oil companies now have more choices about who they want to dance with and for how long.

North Dakota is the latest pretty girl (or handsome guy) the oil industry has sidled up to. Oil production in the northern plains state surpassed Alaska in March, dropping our state to No. 3.

Oil companies in North Dakota produced an average of 575,490 barrels of crude daily in March, setting another production record in that state. Alaska, meanwhile, saw its oil production slip again, to 567,481 barrels per day in March, down about 15,000 barrels daily from February.

Texas sits comfortably at No. 1 on the list, having seen it oil output rise by 12 percent since September. The state produced an average of 1.72 million barrels per day in February, according to a report Tuesday in the Jamestown Sun newspaper in North Dakota.

North Dakota, whose oil production has grown nearly 400 percent in the past five years, is just the latest entry on the world’s oil stage. But it’s one more option for oil companies, and it’s a much easier place in which to do produce oil than in Alaska.

Many of Alaska’s political leaders, including Gov. Sean Parnell, understand that Alaska faces intense competition for the oil industry’s attention. The governor and his allies have tried to convince the handful of key but reluctant legislators that Alaska needs to act soon and in a bold way to obtain more oil industry investment so as to arrest the production decline.

Those reluctant legislators — and all Alaskans, for that matter — should listen to the enthusiasm and excitement in the words of Ron Ness, the president of the North Dakota Petroleum Council. Mr. Ness said, in the Jamestown Sun story, that he was surprised by how fast North Dakota passed Alaska. “Holy cow, I didn’t think it would happen this fast,” he said, adding later in the story that the state has “seen a lot of companies coming in with new technologies ... coming in from all over the world.”

From all over the world.

We need those companies coming north to Alaska.

The issue of oil tax reform isn’t going away. It will await Gov. Parnell and the new Legislature when it convenes in January. Perhaps Alaskans will elect more senators and representatives this fall who see that the time to act is now.


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