NPRA leasing: A good step, but Alaska must play a larger role

Posted: Friday, July 16, 2010

The following editorial first appeared in the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner:

An attorney for the Center for Biological Diversity complained in a news story the other day that the National Petroleum Reserve-Alaska was set aside to be used in a time of war or other crisis. His remarks came as Interior Secretary Ken Salazar announced the federal government was offering oil and gas leases on 1.8 million acres in the reserve.

The Center for Biological Diversity, an aggressive Arizona-based environmental group, doesn't like that the oil industry wants to develop the reserve. It has lobbied, and had success, to have some buffer land around the migratory bird habitat of Teshekpuk Lake removed from the lease sale.

But that's not enough for this group, apparently. It objects to any development of the petroleum reserve at all right now.

The Center for Biological Diversity is way off the mark if it believes we aren't in crisis and there's no need for these latest lease sales.

The United States imports oil from a host of nations with which it has potentially volatile relations or that are unstable or facing internal turmoil or terrorist infiltration. It also imports from nation's that are finding themselves rich in investment from foreign oil companies, investment that perhaps could be coming to the United States if we were more receptive.

The list of leading oil-exporting nations to the United States includes the following countries, with a little news snippet from recent days:

Nigeria - "Gunmen kidnapped four Nigerian journalists and a driver traveling through the country's oil-rich, but volatile southern delta, authorities said Monday, the latest troubling sign of insecurity in the West African nation." (From The Associated Press, July 12)

Venezuela - "Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez met with Syrian President Bashar Assad on Saturday and called on Latin America and the Arab world to fight what he called America's imperialist and capitalist interests abroad." (From The Associated Press, June 26)

Iraq - "Iraq's Parliament has met once, for 18 minutes on June 14, since the close outcome of national elections more than four months ago created a political stalemate. On Monday, parliamentary leaders delayed a session scheduled for this week, raising questions about whether their inaction is now breaking the law." (The New York Times, July 12)

Colombia - "Foreign direct investment ... could reach $10 billion this year, as money continues to pour into Colombia's booming oil and mining industries. Foreign direct investment in the country so far this year was $4.4 billion, 8.5 percent higher than in the same period in 2009." (The Wall Street Journal, July 12)

Algeria - "North African Islamist militants linked to al-Qaida are reportedly building heavily fortified bunkers in the Sahara Desert against air strikes as Algeria and its neighbors mount a combined offensive against them." (United Press International, July 6)

Congo - "As the Democratic Republic of Congo celebrates 50 years of independence, President Joseph Kabila wants to use the occasion to overturn his country's image of chaos, endless war and bad governance." (BBC News, June 30)

We have a crisis in our own country. We need to vigorously develop our domestic oil resources to reduce our reliance on questionable nations while at the same time proceeding down the long road to greater reliance on non-fossil fuels, such as nuclear power.

The National Petroleum Reserve-Alaska and other land in this state must be a central part of a strong plan for increasing domestic oil and gas production.

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