GUEST COMMENTARY: Nothing new for hard-working Alaskans

  • Demonstrators stage a protest on the field at the Yale Bowl disrupting the start of the second half of an NCAA college football game between Harvard and Yale, Saturday, Nov. 23, 2019, in in New Haven, Conn. (AP Photo/Jimmy Golen)

Two weeks ago, for a moment, the energy industry was in the national spotlight. As usual, this opportunity wasn’t used to recognize its hardworking men and women or praise them for the growth they’ve brought to our country. Instead, it was used to recirculate the same tired, unproven talking points as always.

At halftime of the Harvard-Yale football game, a renowned annual tradition, climate change activists rushed the field in protest of their schools investing in fossil fuels. This was done in the name of environmentalism and was praised by several Democratic presidential candidates including Sens. Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders. As usual, the protest and ensuing coverage was riddled with disinformation and misinformation.  

The benefits of the natural gas and oil industry to Alaska are undeniable. It accounts for one-third of Alaska jobs, as every job in the oil industry is connected to 20 additional jobs in the state’s economy. The hard work of these 110,000 men and women account for about half of the state’s overall economy. Last year alone, the industry generated $2.4 billion, which was about 80 percent of the state’s revenue. This year, it’s projected to be even more.

These results don’t just happen; they’re the product of hard work. While some are planning chants, grabbing coffee and going to protest football games, others are grabbing winter jackets, saying goodbye to their families and going to the airport for their commute.

It takes about an hour and a half for most oil workers to fly into the North Slope, where much of their work takes them. Some employees then need to take smaller flights to even more remote locations. Once there, they typically stay for one or two-week long tours. This means one or two weeks of 12-hour days (some workers complete even longer shifts), doing hard physical labor in temperatures that can vary by nearly 150 degrees throughout the year.

This is what it takes to be the engine of Alaska’s economic growth, and, whether you see it or not, it’s happening every day.

Sadly, none of this hard work is inspiring enough for a group of Ivy League students to protest a football game, and none of the results it produces are sexy enough to capture the attention of the national media.

Instead, voices in New Haven, Conn., are amplified, as are their chants to ban fossil fuels: the driving force of Alaska’s economy and its peoples’ jobs.

For Alaskans, particularly those in the energy industry, this is nothing new. The hard work goes unnoticed, and the results are unappreciated. Last month’s protest is only the most recent incident in a long history of undermining every-day workers.

Fortunately for us, this doesn’t stop Alaska’s energy workers from doing their job. Now, it is our responsibility to make sure the response is as loud as the protests, and the truth is louder than the disinformation.

Alaskans working in the energy industry deserve our support, appreciation and respect. Those three words were completely forgotten on that football field two weeks ago. For Ivy League students who are seemingly at the top of their game, that was a fumble of major proportions.

Rick Whitbeck is the Alaska State Director for Power The Future, a nationwide non-profit focused on supporting energy workers, while pushing back on radical green groups and the ideologues who fund them. Contact him at [email protected].

Updated: 
12/04/2019 - 2:09pm