Alaska Editorial: Limiting options

Salazar's NPR-A rule doesn't help domestic oil

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

“It is not a wildlife refuge.”

A news release from Sen. Lisa Murkowski was emphatic in its response to Interior Secretary Ken Salazar’s announcement last week that the Obama administration was putting half of the 23.5 million acre National Petroleum Reserve-Alaska off limits for oil development. Again, for emphasis: The administration is putting a large portion of the petroleum reserve off limits for the search for petroleum.

Like it or not, this nation runs on oil and will continue to do so for quite some time. Oil will need to serve as a bridge fuel until the nation finds its way toward increased use of other sources of energy, which we surely will.

So it’s best that we use our own oil and put our own people to work getting it while we move toward the inevitable outcome of increased reliance on other sources.

NPR-A contains an estimated 896 million barrels of oil, according to a 2010 estimate from U.S. Geological Survey. But the nation may not see the full benefit of those resources because of Secretary Salazar’s action.

There’s also concern that the administration’s plan will prevent construction of a pipeline to bring oil from offshore leases in the Chukchi Sea eastward to the trans-Alaska oil pipeline. Sen. Murkowski, Sen. Mark Begich and Rep. Don Young all expressed serious alarm at the potential impact on offshore production from the Chukchi.

The administration is trying to look like it’s doing something to increase domestic production. But in reality it’s limiting the amount of acreage available to the oil industry. That spin shouldn’t be overlooked.

Alaska’s members of Congress are right to be aghast at Secretary Salazar’s decision. It’s a decision that should be undone by Congress.

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